Asheville, NC. to Chattanooga, TN. The story of Ruby Falls begins with the original Lookout Mountain Cave. Lookout Mountain is part of the Cumberland Mountains and is the southernmost point of the Appalachians. For centuries, Lookout Mountain Cave had been home, hideout, and curiosity to Native Americans, outlaws, and travelers through the area who used the huge chambers and winding passages of the cave. Both Union and Confederate troops set up temporary hospitals in the cave. In February 1905, the entrance to the Lookout Mountain Cave was sealed off when Southern Railway completed a tunnel through the base of the mountain. In 1923, a local cave enthusiast, Leo Lambert, formed a corporation to finance the opening of the Lookout Mountain Cave to the public. He decided to drill an elevator shaft 420 feet into the mountain to access the cave. On December 28, 1928, while drilling the elevator shaft, workers felt a gush of air at the 260 foot level. Mr. Lambert entered an 18 inch by 5 foot crevice on hands and knees and disappeared for 17 hours. He finally reached a point deep in the interior where he could stand up and he could hear water flowing in the distance. When he returned, he excitedly stated that he had discovered countless awe-inspiring rock formations and an enormous waterfall. Lambert later brought his wife Ruby who followed her husband through the small shaft on her hands and knees. Lambert continued on until he reopened the original Lookout Mountain cave in 1928, naming the 145 foot falls in honor of his wife Ruby.
The entrance building to the cave, "Cavern Castle," was modeled after a 15th century Irish castle and built from the limestone excavated from the elevator shaft and the cave trails.
You can see where the original tunnel is - the upper part, smooth and carved by water. Below is where it was blasted out.
Here's our merry little group. As usual, there were annoying people on the tour. Right next to us were 2 girls and a guy. The guy and one of the girls would NOT keep their hands off one another. They billed and cooed throughout the cave. She would lovingly pat his cheeks. They would gaze into each others eyes. The second chick would take pictures of the adoring and adorable couple. The fondling and petting continued throughout the one hour trip. I was waiting for the two of them to go off into one of the recesses of the cave and do the nasty. Mr. Hawthorne thought the guy was doing both.
Natural formations found in Ruby Falls Cave include Niagara flowstone, potato chip drapery, crystal chandelier stalactite, onyx column, and cactus and candle stalagmite.
Onyx column. That's our informative guide, Robert, from Dublin, Ireland. I asked him if he suffered from back problems since he was well over 6 feet tall and had to hunch over most of the time going through the cave.
Mr. Hawthorne and I have been to several caves over the past few years, the most notable of which was Luray Caverns with the stalactite organ. Once you've seen one stalactite, stalagmite, column, drape, flowstone, or whatever formation that's supposed to look like something else, you've pretty much seen them all. The highlight of this cave is a 145-foot waterfall 1120 feet underground, said to be the largest underground waterfall accessible to the public in America. Mr. Hawthorne described Ruby Falls as a crescendo. Enjoy the videos.
One can only imagine Leo Lambert's utter amazement, after crawling on his hands and knees for 17 hours, when he heard falling water and felt rushing air on his face, was able to stand up, walk around the corner, witness the spectacular colored lights illuminating the waterfall, and hear the accompanying New Age Yanni music.
Our guide pointed out some type of fossil and even though I made up a mnemonic device to remember the name of it, both Mr. Hawthorne and I forgot it. Something-tron. I think.
This is where our tour was conveniently stopped for a few minutes while our guide explained some more stuff.
If the elevator, for some reason, stops working, one is still able to leave the cave through this exit which goes through the original cave. It will take you about 1 mile away from where you parked and a trolley will pick you up and conveniently drop you off at the gift shops.