Attractions

The Lost Sea (massive underground cave and lake!)

The Lost SeaThe Lost Sea is in the Craighead Caverns cave system.  The tour is quite interesting, with something for everyone. Geology and cave nuts will appreciate one of its geological features the anthodites (rare, spiky crystalline structures also known as cave flowers) – rare cave formations which are in abundance here.   The underground lake is the largest known in the US, and in fact it’s the second largest in the world. (Some believe it may actually be the largest, but this is unconfirmed as much of the lake has never been explored or mapped.)

The fish came to be in the lake in an attempt to find the waters’ outlet. It was a fruitless venture, though — they never left. The fish are not white nor are they eyeless; they lose only a bit of color and vision in the dim artificial light. A rare species of cave salamander has been spotted there, but not in quite some time I’m sad to say.

History nuts will also enjoy the visit — the Cherokee used this cave, as did soldiers during the Civil War. It also housed a Cavern Tavern speakeasy during prohibition, housed military supplies (still there) and served as a local bomb shelter in later years. The lighting of the caverns spawned the first attempt to bring electricty to this area. That pleistocene era cat that was found in the cave is kept at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

The return trip is uphill, and fairly steep, so not a good place to take your elderly relatives.  The tour is about an hour.  The Lost Sea is about 2 hours from Pigeon Forge.  Recommend calling ahead to check clarity of water.  If the water level is low or it has rained recently, the water will be murky.  Several visitors mentioned that the boats stank like an old nasty aquarium (because of wet carpet in the boat bottoms).

Visit Old Sweetwater Village.  Before or after your tour, enjoy the relaxed atmosphere East Tennessee is famous for at the “Old Sweetwater Village.” Step back in time and   enjoy shaded walkways leading to authentic log cabins. You will love our   General Store, Ice Cream Parlor, Gem Mine and Glassblower. Our cafe,   the Cavern Kitchen, offers sandwiches and real pit barbeque to hungry   visitors. Ample picnic facilities and a nature trail are also available.   Shops in the “Old Sweetwater Village” may not be open depending on the season.

Address – 140 Lost Sea Rd, Sweetwater, TN

Website – http://www.thelostsea.com/

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Attractions

Cherokee Indian Reservation

cherokee
We went to the Chrokee Indian Village early in the morning. The “indian reservation” is basically an outdoor museum, at each booth people explain what they are doing. There is a village set up with a guide at each stop. You will be given a walking tour with a personal guide as well. Then, you can sit and enjoy all the demonstrations. They do get the audience involved. On site you will find the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Oconaluftee Indian Village, “Unto These Hills” Outdoor Drama (scene reenactments, indian dances, etc…), Qualla Co-op Arts (blow dart demonstrations, pottery making, etc…) and Crafts (weaving-spinning-grinding techniques), souvenir shops, and other family attractions. I enjoyed the dancing and the song they sing to the dancing most of all. The reservation is located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway. It is home to more than 12,500 members of the Cherokee Indian nation. The village is small and does not take long to go through.

There is a River park nearby that is free and got good reviews.

This is not something that I would take a trip to do again. If you are on the NC side, you may want to stop in. We know someone who is Cherokee, so it was neat for us to see some of her history.

We went early in the morning, went through some shops on the NC side, hit Clingman’s Dome on the way back. I wish we had also stopped at Mingus Mill on the way back.

Address – 398 US Highway 441, Cherokee, NC 28719
Website – http://www.cherokeesmokies.com/oconaluftee_village.html