In 1994, I came across a very special trip to Lookout Mountain Cave, under Ruby Falls. We were having dinner at a friend’s house and at our table we met a couple from Lafayette, Georgia. We talked about caving and the Pettyjohn Cave near Lafayette when he told me he was going on a special trip to Ruby Falls. He knew the cave guide there the following Tuesday, April 19, taking a group of city officials from Lafayette to the lower cave at Ruby Falls. He invited me to come if I wanted to. I had to leave work and drive fast, but I knew it was worth it. A once in a lifetime experience and the only opportunity I had to see Lookout Mountain Cave!
When I arrived, I was wearing only caving clothes, the others only had flashlights, but they were impressed when we entered the lobby and the elevator.
After a long slow downhill, we exited the elevator to the Lookout Cave Pass. The electric lights came on. A string of lights with half of them burned out and separated. I remember looking carefully at the rusty frame of the elevator and wondering if it was still working in the wet conditions of the cave.
Although the Lookout Mountain Caves have not been open to tourists for some time, the management of Ruby Falls has allowed researchers to descend the Lookout Mountain Caves from the elevator (wells drilled in 1929-1928) with prior coordination. This access led to the discovery of new passages since the 1961 cargo description. It also led to the discovery of prehistoric bones from the Late Pleistocene. Many ancient names and dates in this cave are of interest to historians. The map of the cave in the Bar book shows the “signature of Andy Jackson”. Unfortunately, in 2005, Tennessee elevator inspectors asked Ruby Falls operators to seal the elevator shaft under Ruby Falls, which in 2006 was completely inaccessible.
One of the first things the guide showed us was Andrew Jackson’s signature, the protective glass had been gone for a long time, but the bolts that held it were still there, and you could only specify the signature.
The lower part of the cave was submerged in water and the stairs went down to the water. As we looked at the passage below, the guide explained that the water-filled passageway connected to the dry passageway in the direction we were traveling. I asked if we could pick it up and join the group at the intersection. I met two of us, my friend, at dinner and followed the creek with water on our backs. After a long walk on the water, we heard noises and got wet with the rest of the group.
We continued through the cave to the main entrance, which is now blocked by a railway tunnel, when we were there we heard the sound of a train passing by. We took a good look at the rock ball boxes next to the aisle and told them they were used for early voting. Although they are hard to believe, they had a square hole at the top.
In 1905 the entrance to Lookout Mountain Cave was permanently closed by a railway tunnel, and in 1928 an elevator shaft was dug by Leo Lambert 420 feet below the known cave. At the level of 260 feet, an opening eighteen inches high and five feet wide was discovered. This led to the present cave, Ruby Falls, named after Ruby, Mr. Lambert’s wife. In 1929, the tours opened into the main cave below. A year later, Ruby Falls was released to the public. And in 1935 the main cave tours were stopped, in 2006 the rusty elevator was replaced and the shaft was closed to the lower cave.