The Tuckaleechee Caverns is located next to the Northern boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains, near the village of Townsend, Tennessee. The Caverns probably formed somewhere between 20 to 30 million years ago (Pleistocene period).
The Smokies and nearby surrounding land was inhabited for many years by several tribes, the main residents being the Cherokee Indians. Along with other tribes, in 1838-39 the Cherokees were forced by the U.S. Government to march on foot to Oklahoma, unfortunately during a very bitter winter. Many Indians died along the way, and later the march became known as the “Trail of Tears”.
The Cherokee Indians knew about the caverns, but the white man “rediscovered” them in 1850. Sawmill workers noticed that after a heavy rain shower, water was pouring into a sinkhole. They discovered that the water disappeared into the caverns.
Today, Tuckaleechee Caverns, sometimes known as the “Greatest site under the Smoky Mountains,” is a major tourist attraction. It’s a mile long, with large open rooms. The largest is about 400 feet long, 300 feet deep, and 150 feet tall. A small, clear stream runs along the floor and is fed from Dry Valley, a small valley area above the Caverns. Several small waterfalls flow from the ceiling of the Caverns to the stream below.
Here’s a short video of the caverns – from my perspective on the guided tour. Boy, was it dark in the caverns!
Tuckaleechee Caverns truly is one of nature’s masterpieces. The reasonable admission fee is well worth the 1-1/2 hour tour. It’s open from March through November. The Caverns attract around 60,000 people every year.