Explore a beautiful and intricate cave system that leads 140 feet below the surface in Sweetwater, Tennessee.

Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater, Tennessee (photo by Trey Sullins)

One of the country’s largest and most remote lakes is just a three-quarter-mile round-trip hike away. Bring a sweater, though; that trek is underground. Get to The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, Tennessee, via a beautiful, intricate cave system that leads 140 feet below the surface. This hidden gem holds a Guinness World Record for being America’s largest underground lake.

During the 1800s, the cave was used as a natural refrigerator to store the vegetables of the area’s settlers, and later the Confederate Army mined it for saltpeter to help manufacture gunpowder.

However, it wasn’t until 1905 that the underground lake was discovered by a 13-year-old boy. Explorers can learn about the full history of the Craighead Cavern, the extensive and historic cave system that holds The Lost Sea, while on a guided tour of
the cave.

Even today with the aid of modern diving equipment, only a portion of The Lost Sea has been explored. You can tour the lake’s visible portion, which is 800 feet long and 220 feet wide, on a glass-bottomed boat. Beneath your feet you just might catch a glimpse of some of the largest rainbow trout in North America swimming by.

Explorers are treated to a wide variety of interesting formations of rare crystalline structures called anthodites. These spiky, fragile clusters, commonly called “cave flowers,” are found in only a few of the world’s caves.

Once you’re back on the surface, mine for gems at Old Sweetwater Village, where you can also make a wish in the well or watch a glassblower at work.

140 Lost Sea Rd., Sweetwater, Tennessee, 423/337-6616, thelostsea.com