Tuckaleechee Caverns Filled with Natural Wonder Under the Smokies
If you’re looking for somewhere to take the family this summer that’s a little off the beaten track, consider the Tuckaleechee Caverns. Billed as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies”, these caverns were carved out by Mother Nature somewhere between 20 and 30 million years ago.
The Early Days
In 1931, the Tuckaleechee Caverns were first opened to the public but were soon closed again as the country struggled under the “Great Depression”. However, two young boys, W.E. “Bill” Vananda and Harry Myers, both residents of Townsend, spent their youth playing near the entrance to the caverns as well as exploring them. By the time they graduated from Maryville College in 1949 the young men had decided they wanted to once again open the caverns to the public as a tourist attraction.
The two couples, Bill and Golden Vananda, and Harry and Nita Myers continued to operate the Tuckaleechee Caverns together until 1982. Each couple would run the business on alternate days to keep them open 7 days a week. However, in 1982 the Myers sold their half to the Vanandas.
It took them four long, hard years to carry the cement, gravel, and sand on their backs needed to build the passageways and steps needed to tour the caverns. But, in 1953 the two were able to realize their dream as the Tuckaleechee Caverns were finally once again open to the public. In 1955, a group of spelunkers discovered the “Big Room” that is 400 feet long by 150 feet deep and 300 feet across.
Some of the stalagmites in this room measure more than 24 feet tall. When you stop to think about the fact that a stalagmite grows at the rate of approximately 1 cubic inch per hundred years, it gives you an idea of how old many of them in these caverns are. The Silver Falls located deep in the newest section of the caverns drops over 200 feet and is a double waterfall. Unfortunately, visitors can only see the lower section of the falls, the upper section can only be seen by looking into the lighted upper room.
If You are Going to Visit
The Tuckaleechee Caverns are open from March 15th to November 15th every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. They are open to all ages with over 50,000 visitors coming to enjoy the beauty every year. The only things you need to bring with you are a good pair of hiking shoes, your camera, a light jacket, and plenty of bottled water as it can take up to 2 hours to complete the tour.
To date over 8,350 caves have been discovered in the state of Tennessee. The Tuckaleechee Caverns are some of the biggest and most beautiful. When Bill and Harry first opened them up to the public back in 1949, they had 2,000 visitors. Now the many more thousands of people that come to see the beautiful caverns and amazing formations every year can do so due to Bill and Harry’s hard work and vision. Isn’t it time you saw what was hiding under your feet?