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78 votes

The Lost Sea Adventure

140 Lost Sea Rd, Sweetwater, Tennessee 37874 USA

Closed Now
Opens Mon 9a
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • No Wifi
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“America's largest underground lake”

To the untrained eye, the state of Tennessee appears to be landlocked. However, hidden in a beautiful, remote cave system is the world's second-largest non-subglacial underground lake, so large it's been named The Lost Sea. The visible surface of the lake is 800 feet by 220 feet (on average, when there isn't a drought or anything) but below the water are even more caverns and rooms, entirely submerged. In fact, divers were unable to find the end of the caves during a 1970s exploration mission.

The Lost Sea is located within Craighead Caverns, an extensive system of caverns first used by Cherokee Indians as a meeting place-- in fact, they got their name from Chief Craighead. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers mined the caves for saltpeter to make gunpowder, and between 1939 and 1940, a mushroom farm was operated in Craighead's Big Room. Also in 1939, a rare and very large Pleistocene jaguar skeleton was discovered inside, and the bones were removed and sent off to theAmerican Museum of Natural History.

In 1947, someone decided that the Big Room would make a better nightclub than a mushroom farm and put in a bar and a wooden dance floor-- thus the "Cavern Tavern" was born. Despite the fact that "Cavern Tavern" is a cool name and the crazy-awesome acoustics for the live band, this proved to be a very bad idea; as you can imagine, alcohol and steep cave staircases don't mix well, and after several injuries the operation was shut down. The cave was also used for cockfights and moonshine distilling-- this is Tennessee, after all.

The Lost Sea wasn't discovered until 1905. It was a 13-year-old kid named Ben Sands who made the find. As the story goes, he spent a lot of time playing in the caves, and crawled into a small hole he happened upon. It led to another room so vast that he couldn't see the other side from the light of his lantern, so he tossed mud and rocks into the darkness to try and find the opposite wall-- instead of hitting a stone wall, the mud and rocks landed in the wate with a splash. When he tried to show is father his discovery a few days later, the water level had risen, hiding the entrance to the lake. It wasn't until a few years later that it was rediscovered. Today, you don't have to crawl through any tiny openings to visit it. The Lost Sea Adventure offer several tours, including a rad boat ride on the Lost Sea and an overnight stay. -Roadtrippers

Your Lost Sea adventure begins with a guided tour of the caverns. This involves a ¾ mile round-trip walk on wide sloping pathways. While touring the caverns and underground lake our guides will tell of the cavern's exciting and colorful history. They will also explain the fascinating geological development of the immense cavern rooms and rare formations. At the bottom of the cave you will board a glass-bottom boat for an exciting trip on the Lost Sea, America's Largest underground lake.

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Reviewed by

  • 2 Reviews
  • 4 Helpful
July 10, 2014
Rated 3.0

Definitely a tourist attraction looking its age, though our kids enjoyed it, including the boat ride. We were stunned that they allowed a physically disabled man to ride the boat without any offer of assistance into the boat, nor equipment to do so--the way his friends had to lower him in was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Wouldn't recommend it for the price point.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
June 09, 2014

This place is awesome!! Our cave guide was very informative and hilarious! The boat ride was pretty cool also! Definitely a must see!!

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
July 29, 2014

Great place! Everyone was friendly and nice from our tour guide Phillip to the glass blower father son duo. Highly recommend! Great for all ages. Sneakers recommended. Unlevel ground and dim lighting.... which is appropriate it being a cave. Just be aware.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 2 Helpful
June 28, 2014

Our experience was okay. We liked the caves and enjoyed a break from the car ride. The glass bottom boat wasn't see through. The tour guide said it was dirty and would be too much work to clean.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
April 07, 2016
Rated 5.0

I took my teenage children here over the Christmas break and it was so much cooler than I expected! If you are a history buff and/or a fan of caves in general, this one is a must-see. The history of Native Americans using this cave is fascinating. It's so much larger inside than I imagined, and our guide was excellent. My kids loved the boat ride, and watching the trout surround the boat waiting to be fed. There even used to be a speakeasy here during prohibition....who knew? Our guide said they closed it after realizing that people got drunk much faster underground and the had trouble climbing back out at the end of the night. Lol I thought this would be kind of sad and touristy, but that was not our experience at all. We have visited caves all over Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, and this is one of our favorites.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 8 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
March 20, 2017
Rated 5.0

What a great cave! I thought it was well worth the price. It was a great chance to get out of the car and walk. I think they said it was about 3/4 mile. The boat ride was fun too, definitely an experience. The boat is just a nice layout for visitors, the water is too dark to see anything anyway, even if the glass was clean. The staff was fun and helpful, definitely a must do.

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Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
July 06, 2016

We went last year. Had a fun time. It's a cool tour and if you're into caves, it's a beauty. Our guide was a lot of fun and the boat ride was a little creeptastic.

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Reviewed by

  • 13 Reviews
  • 4 Helpful
March 27, 2015
Rated 3.0

It was a very cool place to see, but it could have used some upgrades. It was poorly lit and pictures were difficult to take

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Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
March 17, 2015
Rated 5.0

This was SO much fun. My husband and I stopped by on our vacation and had a blast. Our tour guide, Zach, was funny and very knowledgeable about the caves, which were beautiful. The boat ride was awesome. The glass bottoms of the boats were a little dirty, but I still found that the ride was enjoyable without being able to see out of the bottom. Would definitely recommend that you stop through. It's worth the money.

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The Lost Sea Adventure

140 Lost Sea Rd
Sweetwater, Tennessee
37874 USA


Closed Now
  • Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 7:00 pm

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  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • No Wifi
  • Private Parking
  • Free Parking

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