If you are looking for a break from the warm summer weather while vacationing in the Peaceful Side of the Smokies, let us recommend a trip to Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, TN. It is true the gorgeous mountain trees will give you ample shade during your hikes, and the refreshing river water will cool your feet while you splash in the water like you did when you were a kid, you will still surely find yourself working up a sweat and looking for a brief escape from the heat. What better place to cool down than the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies,” where the average temperature is a comfortable 58 degrees year-round?
Tuckaleechee Caverns has a deep history in Tennessee Mountains. The cave system itself dates back twenty – thirty million years, but the first recorded discovery took place approximately 100 years ago by two young boys named Bill Vananda and Harry Myers, as they played at the mouth of the cave as children. But it wasn’t until their time at Maryville College when they started tossing around the idea of re-opening the cave for the public in 1954, that this national landmark became such a significant turning point in their lives. The cave had been opened briefly for the public in 1939, but because of the depression, it closed after only a year. Unable to find financing for their endeavor, Mr. Vananda and Mr. Myers traveled to Alaska on a work expedition to raise money, finally opening for the public in 1953.
Only a year after they opened to the public, the National Speleological Society discovered what is now called the “Big Room,” which is 400 feet long, 300 feet across, and 150 feet deep; that’s big enough to fit a football stadium in the space. The newest discovery was a waterfall which is 210 feet tall from top to bottom, making it the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern United States. Both of these spaces are open to the public and can be seen during your 1.25-mile round trip adventure.
However, Tuckaleechee Caverns offers a lot more to our country than it’s beauty and magnitude alone. It houses the most sensitive seismic station on Earth. The seismic station was originally installed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as they began construction on Norris Dam, to monitor how the water displacement affected tectonic plates. After the US Military realized how accurate and precise the station was able to track the global tectonic movement all around the Earth during the Cuban Missle Crisis, they began upgrading equipment to help detect other nuclear activity across the globe. Currently, the Tuckaleechee Caverns AS107 seismic station is monitored 24/7 and transmits via satellite to the Department of Defense, US Military, Geneva Switzerland, Vienna Austria, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), and the Pentagon. It is has been able to detect nuclear testing in North Korea, as well as monitor earthquake activity as far away as the Great Sendai Earthquake, which caused the massive tsunami that hit Fukushima, Japan. Please take a moment during your tour of the cave to check out this insightful data.
Voted the highest-ranking cave or cavern of the Eastern United States, Tuckaleechee Caverns is a great all-weather option for your Smoky Mountain Vacation. The cave is open from March to November and will give your family a great escape from the summer heat or one of those pesky pop-up thunderstorms for which East Tennessee is known. It will not only give you a break from the weather but will also give you a unique glimpse beneath the mountains and into a national treasure!