Lookout Mountain is widely known for its many unusual geological features. The most unique of which being Ruby Falls, a 145 foot underground waterfall located over 1120 feet beneath the mountain’s surface. The fascinating story of the formation of Lookout Mountain, the Ruby Falls cave and Ruby Falls itself is told by how the rocks that formed each of these wonders did so.

Click the links below for each subject
Ruby Falls Tour
Cave Development
Cavern Castle and Elevator
Science Trivia
Ruby Falls Founder Leo Lambert
Events
Other Interesting Points

Ruby Falls Tour

A tour of both the Ruby Falls Cave and the Lookout Cavern lasted up to four hours in the 1930’s.

The first tour guides were all men. They were paid 75 cents an hour. Women were only used to run the elevator.

Ruby Falls was one of the first caves in the world to use electric lights. The first lighting consisted of electric lights strung onto poles.

At 1120 feet underground Ruby Falls is one of the deepest commercial caverns in the world

At 145 feet tall Ruby Falls is one of the largest underground waterfalls accessible to the public.

Cave Development

The path behind the waterfall was built in 1954.

Over 70,000 feet of wiring is in the cave for the over 500 lights

The alternate exit from the Ruby Falls Cavern was constructed in the 70’s this pathway which extends an additional 1000 feet from the elevator to the side of the mountain cost $100,000 to build.

The alternate exit from the Ruby Falls cave was created in 1975 by the Cowin Engineering Company of Birmingham, Alabama. They are the company that drilled the original shaft. In 1985 the company also constructed bypasses in the cave.

The men who constructed the pathways at Ruby Falls were mining engineers from the copper mines at Copperhill, Tennessee.

Many of the formations in the cave were broken by young tour guides during the Great Depression. They broke off formations and sold the onyx to help support their families, during this time the cave also suffered from vandalism. Very little of the damage to the cave was caused by the excavation process.

Cavern Castle & Elevator

Cavern Castle, the Ruby Falls entrance building was once used as a dinner/dance hall. The dances were later stopped to present Ruby Falls as a family attraction.

If the elevator shaft was drilled six feet from its present location, both caves would have been missed entirely.

The third floor was added to Cavern Castle in 1976.

The first elevator cost $20,235

Science Trivia

Ruby Falls is 837 feet above sea level

The best estimate to the actual age of Ruby Falls is 30 million years.

The rate at which the formations grow varies from cave to cave and can actually vary from place to place in the same cave. The rate is affected by the amount of ground water moving through the rocks, air circulation in the cave, temperature of the cave, and relative humidity. The average is one cubic inch every one hundred to one hundred fifty years.

When you are at the waterfall you are actually about 10 feet higher than you were when you started the tour. As you walk towards the waterfall, the mountain gets taller above you that is why you end up 1,120 ft underground.

The temperature at Ruby Falls reflects the average temperature of Chattanooga (59.4)

The waterfall keeps the relative humidity of the cave at around 100%.

Due to its size and location the “Leaning Tower” is thought to be between 3 and 5 million years old.

People who explore caves are called spelunkers.

People who study caves are called speleologists.

Lookout Mountain has a sandstone cap that runs from Point Park along the top of the mountain. Several hundred feet below that is a layer of shale nearly 400 feet thick. The rest of the mountain is solid limestone.

The water from Ruby Falls flows through the cave into the Tennessee River.

Ruby Falls Founder Leo Lambert

Prior to Ruby Falls Leo Lambert was occupied as a chemist.

Leo Lambert moved to Chattanooga because his fiancée Ruby Eugenia Losey moved here with her family. They were married in 1916 and had 3 children who reached adulthood.

Leo Lambert was the first person to explore the Tennessee Cave on Mount Aetna, it is now known as the Raccoon Mountain Caverns.

Leo Lambert at one time managed the Nickajack Caverns. Nickajack has one of the world’s largest stalagmites and could only be reached by using an electric boat. The cave was flooded by TVA and is no longer toured.

Leo Lambert died in 1950, he was 55. Ruby Lambert died in 1951, she was also 55.

Events

Opening week for Ruby Falls was sponsored by the Elks clubs and all of the money went to them.

The first wedding at Ruby Falls was in 1930 in the lower cave

Babe Ruth and the NY Yankees visited Ruby Falls in 1931. The game against the Chattanooga Lookouts made the history books because a female pitcher, Jackie Mitchell, was used by the Lookouts. During the contest she struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Tony Lazzeri.

A beauty contest was held at Ruby Falls in 1937. Fourteen women were involved. They were filmed diving into the pool at the waterfall by Tye Sanders of Atlanta; the film was distributed by the Universal Film Exchange for movie theatres.

Other Interesting Points

Ruby Falls was a designated fallout shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Ruby Falls had a capacity of 720 people and was stocked with water and dehydrated food.

A tour guide once roller skated through the cave. That same tour guide lost a bet to another guide and had to push him in a wheelbarrow all the way to the waterfall.

In 1963 three catfish were place in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall; they died not even two weeks later. The high mineral content of the waterfall and streams make it impossible for fish to survive in Ruby Falls.

The word “Chattanooga” is a Creek word meaning “rock coming to a point” it is thought to be a description of Lookout Mountain.

At one time the Lookout Mountain Cave was still accessible through the Railroad Tunnel but was closed by the railroad company after they built the tunnel because bootleggers were using the cave during prohibition.

When the Lookout Mountain Cave opened, it had a wooden door in the side of the Railroad tunnel that was used as an emergency exit. The tour guide each had a key to the door. It was blocked off to prevent vandalism.

 

 

© 2006 Ruby Falls - 1720 South Scenic Highway, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37409, (423) 821-2544