Ruby Falls Chattanooga, TN Underground Waterfall
The underground world was discovered by mistake by a young man crawling through a small hole in the cave... 17 hours after he went into that hole, he found a Thing of Beauty..!
Ruby Falls - Chattanooga, TN
It was on a trip back from Jacksonville, Florida in the early spring.
I was driving my friend back from his two-year effort working with a major with a financial company down there and it was time to co-pilot him back home...
After staying in a small motel in a tiny town in Georgia the night before, we started our day driving north towards the hills Tennessee, the precursor of a long road back to Denver.
It was a mild spring day in as we rolled across the State Lines. The air was perfect - you can almost taste the vivid green trees that live by the numbers in the hills around us.
With the Chattanooga river as a picturesque backdrop, we noticed some attraction signs that lead to a place called 'Ruby Falls'.
We didn't know what this was and we had a few hours to kill - so we steered off towards the signs to see where they led.
Winding up a few small and mild switchbacks, we were pointed toward this destination by a uniformed employee.
Here, from the entrance of Ruby Falls, covered with Ivy that pulled itself up the three-story facade of this very inviting and unique destination.
Off in the distance, the river flows through the hills with drawbridges and boats dotting the pristine shorelines.
We made our way into the Gift Shop / Welcome area of Ruby Falls we are greeted with a smile. Not knowing exactly what we had just stumbled across, we started asking questions...
"So what exactly is this place..?" I asked.
With a quick response… "Your at Ruby Falls..!"
What was next was Amazing!
My friend Mike and I learned that a brief and enlightening 45 minute journey would take us into the center of the mountain and bring us into the deep world within. Not only just into the center of the mountain, but through the stalactites and stalagmites that hung over the reflecting pools and meandered through the corridors that made up this Holllow Mountain.
Deep within the Mountain...
At the end of this cave-like trail we were promised a reward..?
IT PAID OFF..!
As we followed our small tour group down the elevator carved into the stone earth, sending us deep into the heart of these hills, inside the mountain, deeper and deeper... As the doors opened, we were covered by the cool air. The air was mild, in fact it is always 58° at Ruby Falls.
For over 75 years, visitors have enjoyed the spectacle of what lies inside Lookout Mountain. Maybe it's the geological rarity, maybe it's the discovery and history, maybe it's just the mystery, but whatever it was, we too were intrigued of Ruby Falls...
But what was Ruby Falls?
A Maze of Caves...
These Caves are Deep!
The Labyrinth of caves inside Lookout Mountain have been known for centuries in these parts. The inhabitants of Tennessee passed on the knowledge of this area to settlers.
Reports have followed men as far as 12 miles into the mountain without reaching the end. In the late 1800s, people enjoyed exploring these caves as a local attraction, but in early 1905, the train was coming through America, and here at the mountain, the tracks ran along the natural entrance and it was sealed and shut off to the public.
In 1923, Leo Lambert, a Chattanooga loca loved this area and was determined to open back up to his public so visitors could enjoy these caves, much like they had in the past. So in 1928, with the help of investors, Lambert begin to drill into the mountain from the top, to create a New entrance into Lookout Mountain.
While excavating the elevator shaft that would carry people down into the caves, Lambert discovered a large void at about 265 feet down. This was still 160 feet above the known cave. There was a hole only 18 inches wide.
Lambert went into explore and wasn't heard from for 17 hours. When he emerged, he described amazing rock formations and deep down, told of the discovery of a "Marvelous Jewel.."
... and to think, if Lambert would have dug his shaft 6 feet in any direction, this would never have been discovered, remaining a natural mystery.
The new entrance to the cave was accepted greatly by the public and was considered the "World's Most Magnificent Cave Entrance"!
Hall of Dreams
"Hall of Dreams"
Passing a sign that says "You are now entering beautiful Hall of Dreams".
Hall of Dreams.? This must be what they were talking about.
There was a building rumble as we were led into a huge, dark, open hallow. With the lights off, our tour guy told us to get ready for a 'surprise'.
As the lights ruptured into beautiful Purples and Greens and Blues and Reds from within, they illuminated a spectacular underground waterfall! One Hundred and Forty Five (145) feet this Ruby Falls poured from the cracks.
A steady stream of water splashed down in the awaiting pool below. This is the tallest underground waterfall in the World that is accessible to the the public.
The Ruby Falls
How was this..?
How was this possible?
But there was right in front of us magnificently pouring from the crack in the tall flat walls that narrowed up words like a silo. The hummable water was enticing. The lights danced in the water droplets that misted off our faces.
Ruby Falls was also one of the first caves in the world to use electric lights - over 70,000 feet of wiring makes it all happen.
A few minutes in the hall of dreams and we were in all in awe. The fragrance of the cave air was fresh and moist, and we could have spent a few more minutes just looking at the falls, but it was time to go, and so back through the hallways of stalactites and stalagmites, we headed out. Past reflecting pools and up into the elevator that led back to the service level.
This was a very unique experience, one that we never expected to come across, and one we will visit again and bring our family and friends. Ruby Falls in the middle of the Chattanooga Hills is a natural wonder and an experience we will never forget..!
Inside the Earth is Cool too..!!
Thanks for visiting. Chance Buell is an adventure photographer simply stumbling across the greater good of the worlds we live in. Help support in any way you want!