The Best List of Caves in Tennessee
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Caves in Tennessee? Tennessee is known for the thick layer of limestone bedrock that lies beneath the major portions of the state. Now, this is a real headache for the farmers who look to build on the land but for the cave explorers; it is a dream come true!
Multiple attractions and parks are sprinkled over the state, offering spelunking experiences for hikers of all ages and skill levels. Many experts believe that when tourists come to Tennessee, they love both what they see above the ground and what’s underground as well.
The Best List of Caves in Tennessee
It would compel many readers to ask – “are there a lot of caves in Tennessee?” Yes, the state is ranked higher than other states when it comes to the number of caves. As per records, there are a whopping 10,000 caves in the state.
The Top Caves to Visit in Tennessee
The astronomical number of caves in the state have lured many spelunkers – both experienced and beginners. Although one cannot enter all the caves, there are many which offer unique and beautiful experiences. Some of these caves are home to protected wildlife.
Here are the most popular caves of Tennessee –
- Bell Witch Cave
- Blue Spring Cave
- Big Bone Cave
- Craighead Caverns
- Cumberland Caverns
- Dunbar Cave
- Forbidden Caverns
- Gillespie Cave
- Hubbard’s Cave
- Lookout Mountain Caverns
- Lost Cove Cave
- Nickajack Cave
- Raccoon Mountain Caverns
- Ruby Falls
- Snail Shell Cave
- Tuckaleechee Caverns
- Appalachian Caverns
- Bristol Caverns
- Worley’s Cave
- Jackson Cave
Any spelunker would go mad on seeing this list as it is impossible to visit each one. Let’s break this down a bit and attempt to classify the most popular ones under different categories to easily understand which cave he would prefer to visit.
Best Caves in Tennessee
Here is a detailed outlook of the best caves in the state.
Water Caves in Tennessee
The chief attraction of the Ruby Cave is the waterfall of the same name. The cave is home to the tallest underground waterfalls in the US. The 1120 ft water stream plunges into the cave pool, which is at the base of the falls.
Ruby Cave has been made accessible to the public since 1929. It received around half a million visitors every year from all over the world. Several tours are conducted here, and face masks are required for each of these tours.
The Tuckaleechee Cavern is home to the oldest mountain chain on earth and is estimated to be around thirty million years old. Do you know that an interesting piece of history is associated with this cavern? The Cherokee tribes used to live in these caves, and in the 19th century, the cave served as a workplace for women to carry out sewing and a variety of household chores.
The major attractions of this cavern are the Silver Falls, a two-tiered waterfall, and The Big Room, which is a huge room that looks almost like a football stadium. It takes around 2 hours to tour the cave.
Kayaking through Caves in Tennessee
Tennessee is one of the vibrant states in the US and offers you plenty of opportunities to kayak through caves. Here is the best of them.
Bell Witch Cave
Not many people who come to visit the Bell Witch Cave are aware of its legend. The cave itself is not spectacular, but what makes it popular is its story. From June to August, visitors are encouraged to rent a canoe or a kayak, float on the Red River, and enjoy the state’s beauty.
Located within a striking distance of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Craighead Caverns is a complex cave known for sheltering the Lost Sea. A young boy discovered it, and it has a record of being the largest underground lake in the US.
Just beside the waterfall, you will find stalactites and stalagmites adorning the walls of the cave. There is also a boat ride available which will take you across the lake as the tour guide tells you about the colorful history of the cave.
Natural Caves in Tennessee
Natural caves are usually formed when underground acidic water wears away softer stones, such as limestone, leaving only the hard rock, such as granite, left. They can also be formed during natural catastrophes, such as earthquakes or by ice and glaciers.
The Appalachian Caverns boasts a glorious history that makes it a must-visit cave. The Early Woodland Native Americans were the 1st known dwellers of the cave more than 1300 years back. There are records that the early settlers of the cave included people like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.
Later the cave was used by various troops during the Civil War. Several tours are available on-site such as walking tours, explorer tours, and even wild tours.
The Forbidden Caverns is yet another cave in Tennessee where the Cherokee Indians lived in. The moonshiners used these well-hidden caves to brew and store the products until they were delivered. Anyone visiting the caves is invited to undertake a 55-minute walking tour along the pathways, which are paved and well-lit.
Mountain Caves in Tennessee
The Bristol Caverns easily qualifies as one of the largest caverns in the Smoky Mountains region. The cave was formed because of the rise and flow of the underground river from ancient times. Today, when you enter the cave, you will be walking along the paved walkways and view the beautiful works of nature in the form of mineral veins, stalactites, and stalagmites.
The caverns are open on all days of the year except on special days like Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, etc.
Raccoon Mountain Caverns
The caves in the Raccoon Mountains are most geologically active and spreads over 5 ½ miles. There are beautiful rock formations in these caves, which have been well-preserved over the years. Tours are available here, including a special one known as the Wild Tour.
There are also provisions for rentals of cabins and campsites so that anybody can enjoy their visit to the Raccoon Mountain Caverns.
Music Caves in Tennessee
Let’s face it – Tennesee has a TON of great music! There are a couple of insanely weird concert venues in the state that you must check out before you decide to leave Tennessee.
Dunbar Cave, Clarksville
Spread across 144 acres, the Dunbar Caves is believed to have housed the Native American people for a long time. The walls of the cave have been enhanced through their wall art for generations after generations. People thought that this cave was the doorway to the Underworld because of the varied geology and the massive space.
The cave held musical concerts at one point in time. There is a guided tour that would help you get a clear insight into the cave and its surroundings.
Cumberland Caverns is the 2nd largest cave in the US and is in McMinnville. The Cumberland Caverns is one of the most amazing places in the country, which has underground waterfalls, 32 miles of passageways, incredible rock formations, pools, adventure tours, and even daily walking tours.
No wonder, it is the largest show cave in Tennessee. Bluegrass Underground, the monthly music event, is held here in the Volcano Room of the cave. At present, Cumberland Caverns Live concerts are organized here.
Abandoned Caves in Tennessee
Snail Shell Cave
It is not an abandoned cave in the true sense of the term, but people stay away from it as it is considered extremely dangerous. The cave suffers from serious flooding problems, and no one enters the cave unless he is a highly experienced spelunker.
Even experienced people have found it challenging to navigate through the cave system, and several people have died in the cave over the years.
It is a large but partially flooded cave in Marion County. It was flooded in 1967 after the construction of the Nickajack Dam. The entrance was initially 140 ft wide, but today there is always 30 ft of water at the entrance. There is a large colony of Gray Bats, an endangered species, and the rising water level has posed a significant danger to the bat colony.
Caves in Tennessee near Nashville
If you live in Nashville, you will be pleased to know that we have made a list of a couple of beautiful caves that are within easy driving distance of Nashville.
Bell Witch Cave, Adams
It is one cave you would probably not want to enter at any cost. People say that there has been a couple of murders here, and stories are floating around of a jealous poltergeist.
The Bell Witch Cave is touted as one of the most haunted places in the US and is just a half-an-hour drive away from the central city. You can opt for a tour here or watch the caves from outside and head home safely.
Dunbar Cave State Park, Clarksville
Dunbar Cave was a party place in the olden days, but it has been turned into a state reserve. The total length of the caves is not accessible right now, but it is one of the longest in the state. You can sign up for one of the guided tours to know more about this remarkable cave.
As you can see, the state of Tennessee has some pretty great offerings to cave lovers! Make certain to always be safe and prepared before entering any cave so you can make your cave experience a good one!
Other articles you may find helpful or interesting:
- Best List of Caves in Pennslyvania
- The Best List of Caves in Tennessee
- The Best List of Caves in Vermont
- The Best List of Caves in Virginia
- The Best List of Caves in Wyoming