I’m writing this from the road, sitting in a motel in Lexington, Kentucky with my two little cherubs snoring softly in the double bed beside my writing table. I think the 200th lap in the hotel pool tonight really did them in!
This afternoon on our way back from Cartersville we stumbled on this wonderful family excursion, and I wanted to mention a few details before they slipped away. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are constitutionally incapable of riding seven hours in the car without duct tape and rope. (Yes, I am kidding. But only because, being the VERY wise parent I am, I don’t ask them to sit seven hours so the tape and rope are unnecessary.) So about an hour north of Chattanooga, I spotted a billboard and decided it was time for a Family Adventure! (Yeah!!!)
The Lost Sea Adventure is an underwater lake — at 4-1/2 acres, it is the largest underwater lake in the U.S., and the second largest in the world (the largest is Lake Vostok in Antartica). The cavern was alternately a site for Cherokee Indian ceremonies, Confederate soldiers (who gathered bat droppings to make salt peter/gunpowder), a speakeasy (in business for only two months because overly inebriated customers kept injuring themselves trying to get out of the place). It was also a bomb shelter (Federal Government provided the people of Sweetwater enough food to feed 3,000 people for three months; remants of these boxes containing 50-year-old Saltines are still visible.)
The cave contains a large, off-limits room (due to the 90-foot hole in the middle of it, which made insurance adjusters so nervous they closed it to the public) where of an Ice Age jaguar was discovered (think Diego on Ice Age). At 130 feet below the surface, the “Lost Sea” itself was discovered in the 1905 by a 13 year old boy named Ben Sands (no one believed him until a team of scientists “discovered” his find decades later); the site was declared a Registered Natural Landmark in 1976.
The hike down to the lake is about a mile; tickets are about $15.95 adults, $7.45 kids. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout (whose colors and eye sight have both been damaged from being in the dark for so long), who feed on liver pellets and come right up to the glass-bottom boat to say hello.
The Sweetwater Village (across the driveway from the Lost Sea) contains a glass-blowing site as well as other period artisan shops. Admission to the village is free — nice area for picnics, etc.