Noccalula Falls Cave... is it
Legendary Caves at
Throughout Lookout Mountain are many
mysterious caves in which all sort of legends are connected. For
instance, confederate soldiers entered and staggered out days
later at another distant location. Then there are those caves
that served as a shelter for the Indians, for a hospital, moon
shining operations as well as mining for gunpowder. If this is
not enough, recently found Lookout Mountain caves have proven to
stagger the soul as being some of the world’s tallest and
Lookout Mountain is located in one of the world's richest
regions for caves due to its makeup. How is this so? The
mountain is topped with a sandstone cap composed of varying
hardness. This stone absorbs and holds water like a sponge.
Water cannot dissolve sandstone but simply passes through. Under
this sandstone cap is a limestone base which water will dissolve
if it finds a crack to pass through. Eventually this crack
dissolves into a larger passageway until it emerges as a cave.
This explains why it is almost impossible to find a real cave on
top of the mountain. Wherever a big stream emerges from the
mountain a considerable cave can be found, although the entrance
is usually blocked by a breakdown.
There is one legend involving confederate soldiers going into a
and coming out at
Noccalula Falls. Is this possible? Some geologists have
pointed out that such a cave system extending both ends of
Lookout Mountain is indeed possible.
It is well known most of the mountain has a synclinal “fault" as
well as a limestone base containing water table levels. During
Lookout’s early forming, the east and west side rose higher
which left a low area in the middle. Other mountains with
synclines and limestone are known to carry a network of caverns.
The most famous of the
cave was the one which natural entrance is located at the
foot of Lookout Mountain on the banks of the
Tennessee River. It was known for centuries, first used
as a campsite by American Indians, later a hideout for outlaws,
and a Civil War Hospital. Many visitors left their traces and
there is even a signature of
who also visited the cave.
Tales of this cave’s huge chambers and winding passages have
long been passed down from one generation to the next. There
were many reports of explorers traveling deep into this cave, as
far as 12 miles without reaching the end.
In 1905 the cave was intersected by a railroad tunnel through
the mountain and the entrance was sealed. To access the cave, a
400’ shaft was excavated in 1928 and 1929. During this
excavation, a second cave,
Ruby Falls , was discovered at the 260-foot level. For a
short time both caves were shown commercially, but extensive
deposits of soot from the railroad tunnel have accumulated in
the original lower cave, and it was closed in 1935 to tourists.
In recent times, the management of
allowed researchers to take the elevator down to the lower cave
by prior arrangement. This access resulted in the findings of
new passageways. It also resulted in the discovery of
prehistoric bones dating back to the last Ice Age (Pleistocene
Age). Many old names and dates in this cave are of great
interest to historians. Unfortunately, in 2005, the
State of Tennessee 's elevator inspectors required the
Ruby Falls operators to seal the portion of the
elevator shaft below
Ruby Falls and the cave is now totally inaccessible.
Down in Alabama during 1888 Fort Payne was going through a boom
time. Manitou Cave , located in the side of Lookout Mountain ,
was developed by
Fort Payne Coal and Iron Co. as an attraction. Bridges
and winding stairways were built leading to the huge ballroom,
where dancers could watch the reflections of hundreds of candles
glitter from the stalactites of the walls and ceiling. Later
electricity was installed inside the cave and a public park
created near the entrance. It became a favorite social meeting
place. The cave was closed in the early 1900's, reopened in 1963
by the Walter B. Raymond, Sr. family, who operated it as a
tourist attraction for 12 years. It is currently closed to the
Georgia, Lookout Mountain branches off in an extension
Pigeon Mountain. On top is a wildlife management area and
underneath is the Ellisons Cave system. The cave was known to
early settlers as early as 1837 but exploration past the first
thousand feet of known cave began in 1969.
Ellison is the deepest cave in the United States at 1,067 feet
total depth and one of the longest with over 12 miles of
pathways. Multiple entrances actually allow a “through the
mountain” trip which means a caver can enter on the east side of
the mountain and exit on the west.
Within Ellison are numerous vertical shafts attractive to the
experienced caver. The most well known are Fantastic Pit at 620
feet deep, followed by Incredible Pit at 440 feet.
Fantastic Pit is the deepest known cave pit in the continental
United States. It is big enough to hold the
Washington Monument (555'). Photos cannot give this place
justice as to how huge it is! It is a truly fantastic rappel and
it takes 8 seconds for a rock to hit the bottom!
Lookout, most cave temperatures are a constant 57 to 590
F. Except for big wide open entrance areas, the Indians
generally stayed out of caves. Archaeological sites, although
not unknown, are relatively rare. The Indians stayed out with
reason; despite popular belief, caves are very uncomfortable
places to live.
The question now arrives. Did soldiers from the Civil War enter
a cave in
Chattanooga and came staggering out 2 weeks later at
Louie Hart, the manager of the well-known Bellevue Hotel, before
1912, went beneath Noccalula Falls and crawled back two hundred
feet in a cave. He reported the opening at the back narrowed to
a tree that was as large as he was. He said that this tree
evidently was washed down from some great cavern farther back.
During the year 1859, a survey map for C. R. Smith Company was
drawn of Noccalula Falls by a man whose last name was Faxon. He
also beautifully carved his name and date on the wall behind the
waterfall. On this panoramic survey map was drawn a cave to the
side of the Falls that was called “ Keener Cave ”.
Up through the 1930's there were many cases and incidents of
supposed individuals entering a cave at Keener or Fort Payne and
exiting at Noccalula Falls . There is a cave at Keener located
at the old Keener Springs on the side of Lookout Mountain . This
cave is now flooded with water but many individuals still living
say its passageway runs deep into Lookout Mountain . Recent
spelunkers have stated that so far it was the longest survey
cave in Etowah County and it could be longer if they could get
beyond an area that was flooded.
Controversy of the old cave at Noccalula Falls has been
exchanged among old timers for many years. One such person said
his granddaddy, as a child, would remember men going down below
the gorge and later come back up acting strange as if
intoxicated. Many of the old timers not only said this but said
that the cave was dynamited over the entrance.
A book written around 1888, Caves of Northern Alabama,
spoke of Confederate soldiers entering a cave near
Chattanooga during the war and coming out at
Noccalula Falls . Before their exit from the cave they reported
a huge chamber filled with flying swallows. In the book, the
entrance was said to be about 50’ down the creek and 150’ over
to the right. It also stated the cave's entrance was dynamited
in 1870 due to moon shining.
Still not convinced this never happened? Take the stairways to
underneath the Falls. As you reach the point under the statue of
the Indian princess, you will see a cave-like area hollowed out.
In the very back are a few limestone stalactites. Above the
roof, on the wall, are stress marks and cracks that could only
have been made by dynamites.
For today, it is a good story. For every story, there are some
truths. Perhaps someday, more evident will prove or disprove
this wonderful legend at Noccalula Falls
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