The Natural Wonder of Ruby Falls
By: Atlanta Northcutt --- Reporter for the Southern Standard
I have never been to Ruby Falls or Lookout Mountain, and I’m a Tennessee native. The painted barns along the highway stating “See Rock City” have been a staple sight during road trips, but I had still never followed those words to the famous location. Once I traveled up the mountains overlooking Chattanooga and made my way to the entrance of Ruby Falls, the nature-lover in me was filled with excitement and curiosity of what natural wonders would exist down below. Getting onto an elevator, which quickly took me 26-stories below into the depths of Lookout Mountain, the doors opened to a lit path with the 60 degrees, cool cave walls surrounding me. A tour guide greeted me, and with the rest of our group made up of all ages, we watched a short video about the discovery and history of the cave and America’s largest, tallest underground waterfall open to the public. Throughout the tour, each cave formation was astounding and uniquely beautiful as we walked 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 was the first attraction to be reached, made of white onyx and the only one allowed to be touched. At every major formation, our tour guide would stop and a short sound bite would play to give us more information on what we were beholding. As we explored deeper into the cave, every piece was exquisitely lit, perfectly showcasing the unique markings, bends and folds of each. The limestone stalagmites on the ground and stalactites hanging from the ceiling were magical and appeared all around us. A large collection of multiple lengths of stalactites hung from the cave’s ceiling and formed a chandelier-shaped design. Many formations showed 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. As we reached the opening to the Falls Room, our guide told us that we had just traveled 2,260 feet into the cave from the elevator and were 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. As the purple, red and blue colors began to highlight the waterfall, Georgia tourist Chase Teague got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend Brittany Trawick. Everyone clapped as she said yes and began kissing and hugging. It was a majestic spot to propose to the one he loved. The waterfall was beautiful and powerful, and the good mood from the romantic gesture and witness of the waterfall followed us as we left the Falls Room and made our way back through the cave. The many water pools and new formations we experienced on our way out were equally as beautiful as those we had seen coming in. As we reached the elevator to leave, everyone was pleased and appreciative of nature’s splendor. Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain provides breathtaking sights. The classic waterfall tour is available daily from 8 am to 8 pm. Lantern tours are provided from January to November on every Friday with the cavern and trail solely illuminated by hand-held lanterns, lending a more unique, longer and intimate after-hours experience of the cave and waterfall to patrons. The Extended Cavern Experience is available on select dates year-round and gives tourists a more in-depth and lengthy tour, as well as more detailed information about the geology and history of the cave and waterfall. Another fun attraction is the Ruby Falls Zipstream Aerial Adventure, where participants can fly through the treetops at Ruby Falls. Ladders, nets, bridges, tunnels and zip lines are built through the trees on Lookout Mountain. Guests can do the Diamond Rope Courses and three-sided, 40-foot Climbing Tower or the Tower ZIP Ride, open during the spring and summer, that has over 700 feet of rushing zip lines. Dining options, guest services and the gift shop help families have a full-day of leisure. Most attractions are accessible to all guests; however, wheelchairs and strollers are not allowed inside the cave. A 360-degree virtual tour gives those who are unable to go deep into the cave a scenic experience they can participate in. Closed-toe shoes with good traction are the proper footwear to wear for the cave and zipline.