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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
Tennessee’s Largest Underground Lake
by Jennifer Watts
There are so many cool and exciting places in Tennessee. So many, that you might not know about them all. That’s what Go See Tennessee is all about. We’re here to tell you about places we think are neat and that you might want to visit too. It might be helpful to make a “Go and See” List, and whenever you read about a place that sounds cool, write it down, to help you remember it for the future. Ready for this week’s place? Let’s go!
Of the many lakes in Tennessee, only one cannot be seen on land. Why? Because it is 140 feet underground! The Lost Sea is thought to be an 800-foot-long and 220-foot-wide lake in Monroe County, but that is the only part we can see. More can be found underwater. Cave divers have been mapping parts of it for years and still have not found the end. It is believed to be the largest underground lake in North America.
Sail Tennessee’s Lost Sea brochure, TSM Collection.
The Lost Sea has a very cool history. The lake was discovered by a thirteen-year-old boy named Ben Sands in 1905. He was exploring the caves where his father often guided people through its many rooms. However, they were not the first people to explore them. The caves are named after Cherokee Chief Craighead. He owned the land in the early 1800s. Artifacts like projectile points, jewelry, and pottery have been found in the caves. Fossilized prints of a prehistoric jaguar from 20,000 years ago have also been found. Casts of the prints are on display at the Lost Sea Adventures’ Visitor Center.
Brass bracelet, an example of Cherokee jewelry, TSM Collection.
This is only a portion of the cool stuff you can learn at the Lost Sea and Craighead Caverns. Since 1974, it is a National Natural Landmark. Today it is open to the public year-round for tours. You can even take a ride on a glass-bottom boat to see giant rainbow trout as they swim in the cool water of the Lost Sea. If you would like to learn more, plan a trip to Sweetwater and go see Tennessee!
To Learn More:
Watch the CBS This Morning show about exploring the Lost Sea at: .
“Exploring The ‘Rich History’ of America’s Largest Underground Lake.” American Wonders Series: CBS This Morning. CBS News, 2019. www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw6xLXoZZoU.
“History of the Lost Sea.” The Lost Sea Adventures, 2022. https://thelostsea.com/history/
“National Natural Landmarks: Lost Sea (Craighead Caverns).” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. www.nps.gov/subjects/nnlandmarks/site.htm?Site=LOSE-TN
“The Lost Sea and the Discovery of Craighead Caverns.” Southeast Education Network Magazine, 2019. www.seenmagazine.us/Articles/Article-Detail/articleid/1086/the-lost-sea-and-the-discovery-of-craighead-caverns.
Jennifer Watts is the Scheduling Coordinator at the Tennessee State Museum.