Tuckaleechee Caverns


Useful Information

Location: In Townsend. Off scenic U.S. 321. Off state hwy. 73 between Maryville and Gatlinburg.
Open: MAR daily 10-17.
APR to OCT daily 10-18.
NOV daily 10-17.
[2021]
Fee: Adults USD 18, Children (5-11) USD 8, Children (0-4) free.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyriver cave.
Light: electric
Dimension: T=14°C, St=400, D=60min.
V=50,000/a. [2019] V=2,000 [1953]
Guided tours: D=75min., L=1600m.
Photography:  
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Tuckaleechee Caverns, 825 Cavern Rd., Townsend, TN 37882, Tel. +1-865-448-2274. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

~1850 discovered by lumbermen.
1931 opened to the public for a year, closed because of the Depression.
1953 opened to the public.
1954 Big Room discovered by members of the National Speleological Society.
1955 Big Room included into the tour, electric light installed.
09-APR-1958 65 members of the National Speleological Society had a dinner in the cave.
1982 Bill Vananda bought out Myers and became the sole owner of Tuckaleechee Caverns.

Description

Tuckaleechee Caverns was developed and opened to the public by W.E. "Bill" Vananda and Harry Myers. The two locals were playing at the cave as kids and explored the cave with homemade lamps. Myers recalled in 1960 in an interview that they played Tom Sawyers in the cave. Around 1949 while they were students at Maryville College, they had the idea of opening the cave to the public. They did not get a credit to finance this, so they went to Alaska to work in construction to earn the money. They invested the money and a lot of work into the development of the cave. It took four years and hundreds of tons of sand, cement and gravel hauled on their backs to build steps and passages. But finally they opened the cave in 1953 to the public. At this time tours were held with Coleman lanterns.

At the same time the Tennessee Geological Cave Survey explored and surveyed the cave. A group of cavers, led by Burt H. Denton Jr. of Nashville, discovered the Big Room in 1954. This huge chamber is 55m long, 33m wide and up to 22m high. Immediately the trails were extended to include this chamber and at the same time electric light was installed at the cave. The new tour was opened to the public in 1955.

Exploration continued and another chamber with exceptional speleothems was discovered, but it was not possible to built a trail without destroying them. Nevertheless the tour was extended again to include Silver Falls, a 65m high double waterfall. The cavers and the NSS always had a strong connection to the cave and the national convention of the NSS was held at the cave in 1958. On this congress, on 09-APR-1958, 65 members of the National Speleological Society had a dinner inside the cave. John and Norma Wilson, the owners of Wilson’s Hillbilly Restaurant served the meal on white tablecloths.

The cave is famous for its speleothems, which are called "cave onyx" in the area. In the biggest hall, the stalagmites are so-called plate stack stalagmites aka Speleothempalm trunk stalagmites. Locally they are called totem poles.

The natural entrance of the cave lies at the foot of Little Mountain in Dry Valley. It was discovered by lumbermen, which first explored it using pine torches and kerosene lamps. The story of Red Indians discovering the cave and using it as a hideout and shelter seems to be a sort of local legend.

The cave has three different cave rivers, which merge in the cave and emerge about 1km away in Dunn Spring.