Safely Dive into the Beauty of Ruby Falls
By: Atlanta Northcutt -- Reporter for the Southern Standard
Tourist viewing Ruby Falls inside the Falls Room
Ruby Falls is a national treasure of Tennessee located in Hamilton County. As all other attractions and locations, Ruby Falls has been impacted by COVID-19 and have set precautions in order to protect the safety of visitors and staff while still allowing access to the natural wonders below.
“When you’re ready for a Ruby Falls adventure, we’ll be excited to welcome you! We’ve made important changes based on COVID-19 safety recommendations. We look forward to welcoming you! Please visit responsibly and enjoy Ruby Falls safely,” states RubyFalls.com.
Beginning May 19, following a shutdown due to COVID-19, Ruby Falls cave tours resumed daily but on a limited basis. In response to COVID-19, tour group sizes are significantly reduced, and availability is limited.
When it comes to scheduling tours, advanced reservation is now required. Tickets are available at RubyFalls.com and are not available for purchase onsite at Ruby Falls, as they previously were. Tickets are for a specific date and time of entry. Tourists must arrive 15 minutes before the reservation time shown on tickets. Late arrivals may need to reschedule their tour since capacity in the cave is carefully enforced.
Guests will complete a brief health screening questionnaire upon arrival. If not feeling well, Ruby Falls asks for the ticketholder to reschedule their visit using the information included with the ticket confirmation or call 423-821-2544 for assistance.
When it comes to exploring the cave, guidelines include guests being required to wear a face covering in the cave and elevator. Per CDC guidelines, children under the age of two should not wear a face covering.
Ruby Falls team members are also required to wear a face covering and complete a health screening prior to each shift.
Ruby Falls’ narrow cavern trail and elevator to the cave do not consistently accommodate 6 feet of social distancing, but procedures for a rigorous cleaning regimen have been implemented to help protect guests and team members.
Due to the reduced number of tickets available, Ruby Falls advises those wanting to take part in a tour to purchase tickets at least several days in advance for best availability. If plans change, you may reschedule your visit. Tickets are valid for one year from the date of purchase.
The Cavern Café is temporarily closed, but grab and go snacks are available in the Village Gift Shop. Outside food and beverages are not permitted.
With the new rules, the exploration into the cave leading to Ruby Falls is still as magical of an experience prior to the pandemic, and provides a venture into nature, the outdoors and cave explorations as an escape for many individuals who’ve been confined in their homes for a long period of time, or those just wanting to enjoy the scenery, with the tours now being safer than ever.
An elevator takes visitors quickly 26-stories below into the depths of Lookout Mountain, the doors open to a lit path with the 60 degrees, cool cave walls surrounding tourists. A tour guide greets those entering the cave, with the crowd made up of all ages, and a video presentation gives information on the discovery and history of the cave and America’s largest, tallest underground waterfall open to the public.
Throughout the tour, each cave formation is astounding and uniquely beautiful while walking along the path to the falls. Some of the geological formations had titles, such as Cactus and Candle, Onyx Column, Frozen Niagara and Ruby’s Drapery. The Cactus and Candle is the first attraction to be reached, made of white onyx and the only one allowed to be touched. At every major formation, tour guides stop and a short sound bite plays, giving more information on the structures. As visitors explore deeper into the cave, every piece is exquisitely lit, perfectly showcasing the unique markings, bends and folds of each formation.
The limestone stalagmites on the ground and stalactites hanging from the ceiling are magical and appear all around. A large collection of multiple lengths of stalactites hang from the cave’s ceiling and form a chandelier-shaped design. Many formations show the artistic side that nature can create. Other formations, including Bacon, Tobacco Leaves, Potato Chip and Angel Wings, were named for their more obvious appearance of those specific items. The Hall of Dreams is one of the prettiest areas in the cave with hundreds of straw-like formations. The biggest and oldest formation is the Leaning Tower.
Upon reaching the opening to the Falls Room, visitors have traveled 2,260 feet into the cave from the elevator and are now located 1,120 feet below the top of Lookout Mountain. The waterfall is 145 feet high and flows into a pool of water about five feet deep. However, it is uncertain where the water comes from besides the multiple streams on top of the mountain.
The water flows from the pool to the streams in the cave and makes its way to the Tennessee River. It is an interesting concept to realize how the water movement formed the Falls Room and the cave itself, showing the awe-inspiring power of nature.
Purple, red and blue colors begin to highlight the waterfall experience. The waterfall is beautiful and powerful, and leaves most visitors awestruck while leaving the Falls Room and making the way back through the cave. The many water pools and new formations experienced on the way out are equally as beautiful as those seen coming in.
Ruby Falls is located at 1720 South Scenic Hwy Chattanooga, TN 37409. For information regarding updated schedules, changes to attractions and activities at Ruby Falls, including the High Point ZIP Adventure and Lantern Tours, or for any other questions, visit RubyFalls.com or call 423-821-2544.