Tuckaleechee Caverns earns its title of “The Greatest Sight Under the Smokies.” This treasure is found in Townsend, Tennessee, only a few miles from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in the Smokies.
My dad was from that area and I remembered him talking about Tuckaleechee Caverns. He said that it was a “whole different world down in the caves” and planned to take us but never made it. Remembering this, my husband and I took our daughter there and were very impressed.
With millions of formations seen throughout the tour, the cave also boasts of a Big Room which is greater than 400 feet long, 300 feet across, 150 feet deep. The highest ceilings in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, for comparison, are around 120 feet.
The cave also has a sparkling, clear stream running through it that leads to a double waterfall. Silver Falls is a beautiful surprise in this underground adventure. The falls has a 210-foot drop–the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern United States.
Before local residents knew about the cave, they discovered breezes around a sink hole. Women toted their sewing and their children there during the heat of summer to enjoy the refreshing air.
The caves were found when sawmill workers watched water flow into the sink hole after heavy rains.
Two friends, W.E. “Bill” Vananda and Harry Myers, played in the caverns as boys. They pretended to be Tom Sawyer as they explored the cave carrying “homemade lamps—pop bottles filled with kerosene.”
While in college the men decided to open the cave as tourist attraction. It required hard work to prepare for tourists. The friends toted tons of cement, sand, and gravel to the cave so visitors would have steps and easy passageways to view the sights. Vananda and Myers opened the cave in 1953.
For those fearing that the wildfires of 2016 destroyed Tuckaleechee Caverns and the rest of the sights at Gatlinburg, put your fears to rest. Less than 10% of the park burned. My husband and I traveled there with family earlier this month. We filled a week with endless activity in the Smokies, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Tuckaleechee Caverns. We hated to leave! There is plenty to see and folks who need to rebuild are coming back even stronger.
The mountains are beautiful any time of the year but especially so in the summer and fall.
-Sandra Merville Hart
“Tuckaleechee Caverns,” Tuckaleechee Caverns, 2017/09/16 http://www.tuckaleecheecaverns.com/.