Thursday, October 10, 2013

Exploring Ruby Falls Caverns

We started the day near Chattanooga, Tennessee touring the caverns under Lookout Mountain.  The mountain covers about 80 square miles across 3 states in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.  The area is rich in history including American Indian legends, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War.

View of Chattanooga from the parking lot at Ruby Falls.

Access to the Ruby Falls Caverns is on the Tennessee side of Lookout Mountain.  We entered a building where we took a ride down an elevator with about 30 people and our tour guide Doug.  

It would take about 1/2 an hour for us to walk to the Ruby Falls cavern.  Most of the time we walked single file through narrow passages.  We were organized into groups to signal the guide at intervals to make sure we were all together.  There were nicknames for the front, middle and rear of the tour group.  A large family from Columbia brought up the rear.  We knew we were all together when the guide called out for rollcall and we heard them shout, "Columbia!" 

Leos Passage shows the size of the passages that explorer Leo Lambert crawled along on his belly when he discovered Ruby Falls in the 1920's.  The paths that we walked along were excavated for tours.  Most were paved.

Cave formations had nicknames, like Steak and Potatoes.  The glossy formations felt waxy to touch.

Crystal Chandelier is a formation of stalagtites on the ceiling.  Leaning Tower is a fat column that looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Parts of the path were wet from water dripping from the stalagtites. 

Donkey formation looks like, um, what it looks like.  A donkey's rear end!

There were a lot of drapey looking formations in the Onyx Jungle.  Sometimes it was hard to keep up, because there was so much to see.

Blue lighting in the Onyx Jungle.

A pool of water from an underground stream.  Indian legends told of underground streams and a waterfall inside the mountain. 

Several times along the way Doug would tell us, "Watch your head!"  The rock walls can be narrow and uneven. 

Looking up at a fault line, it seemed like the ceiling went on forever.

Ruby Falls is inside a large cavern with a high ceiling.  The amount of rocky mountain above the cavern is as tall as the Empire State Building.  That was hard for me to imagine, until we saw the views from Rock City on top of Lookout Mountain.

We stayed in the Ruby Falls cavern for about 15 minutes while music played and colored lights filled the cave.  Then we started the trek back through passages back to the elevator.  Parts of the path took us through areas we hadn't seen yet. 

It took us another 1/2 hour to walk back, which may seem like a lot of time, but there was still a lot to see on along the way.  If you enjoy photography and like to play with manual settings, the best spot in a tour group is at the rear.  You're not as pressured to move on.  There were 2 photographers at the rear of our group with tripods.  One of the photographers told us about special photographic tours of Ruby Falls Caverns.  They are done seasonally, and allow for 3 hours in the caves.

After the tour we had lunch and rested, then continued on to the top of the mountain to visit Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

More photos of Ruby Falls Caverns are posted at my album on

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