The Lost Sea

Written By Phil Roulier

On an ordinary day in 1905, in a seemingly ordinary part of East Tennessee, a very extraordinary thing happened. A young boy, by the name of Ben Sands, while exploring the wilderness stumbled upon a small hole in the ground. Curious as 12 year old boys are, he decided to find out where it went. As he wiggled his way deeper and deeper into the earth, he began to realize that this was not just an ordinary hole, but something much more mysterious.  Though fear gripped him, on he descended into the blackness, with nothing for light but a small oil lamp which he had brought with him. As the light from the lamp brightened the room, young Ben’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the light. When they did, he didn’t believe them.  The light shown a cavern, with almost alien rock formations rising up from the ground and hanging from the rock ceiling. As Ben shown the light outward unto the cavern, he was amazed. His eyes set on an enormous lake, buried underground within the intricate cave system. Thus, The Lost Sea was discovered.

The Lost Sea has been and continues to be one of the most awe-inspiring attractions in East Tennessee as America’s largest underground lake. The whole adventure attempts to replicate the journey young Ben Sands had in his boyhood, through the caves and beyond.  As the journey begins, down into the dark cave systems, one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the sense of wonder and mystery that grips the heart and brings on a sense of true adventure. Once inside, the exceptionally knowledgeable guide will take you through the cave system. You will stop along the way to relish in some of the fascinating history of the caves, relive Civil War soldier’s whose names are burned into the very rock itself, experience total darkness, and explore the old moonshine stills that remain from the early 1900’s. Finally, after a short walk, the true majesty of the lake becomes visible. As you gather into the boat, the erie mystery of the immense 4 and a half acre underground lake, lit up only by faint electric light, begins to set a mood of sheer apprehension. As the boat glides silently from the dock, dark shapes surround you, though they are not clearly visible at first. These are the rainbow trout that dwell deep in this underground ecosystem, almost completely blind due to lack of light. As the journey continues, the immensity of the lake becomes apparent, and all the while the fish float slowly by, waiting for any morsels that the guides might throw them.  Deeper and deeper you go, and what happens next? Well that, my friends,is for you to find out.

When exiting the caves and basking in the reunion of the sunlight, the adventure goes on! The Lost Sea Village, located right across from the exit and entrance of the caves, is a complete replica of an early East Tennessee settlement village. Old world charm meets affordable artistry in this one of a kind village shopping center. The candy shop will satisfy any sweet tooth, with old-school treats and sweets that defy imagination. Enjoy their world-famous flavored insects, a favorite amongst the many students that travel to the Lost Sea daily. The glass shop is an unbelievable sight to behold, with an on sight glass-blowing master working on the beautiful glassworks right in front of wonder-filled customers. All the glass works are hand crafted, and the master-glass smiths even specialize in individualized orders. As if this weren’t enough, the village also plays host to an authentic blacksmith hut, machinery and all, and boasts a restaurant with some of the finest BBQ in Tennessee.  

The Lost Sea has recently added many new features to their tours to give each individual the experience of a lifetime! Ask about private spelunking tours, a must for those more inclined to uncharted cave exploring. They also provide overnight tours for large groups and families, the perfect means for a lasting and wholesome experience. The Lost Sea will soon be hosting its 50th Anniversary Celebration, which will bring new attractions to this already amazing experience. Details on these attractions, as well as more information on the celebration itself, will be featured in the next issue of this magazine. Stay tuned, and discover what true adventure means. Discover the Lost Sea today, and take with you memories that will last a lifetime.  

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