We were on Hwy 24 outside of Chattanooga, home of the Yellow Deli, when we saw the millionth sign declaring Ruby Falls to be the 8th wonder of the world, that an underground waterfall of this size was something wonderful and terrible to behold, a sight to see, and pictures of which you’d be showing your grandchildren in the years to come.
I debated whether to write this piece. I doubted its suitability for TheAntiTourist. There’s nothing really specifically antitouristy about a tourist trap that costs too much to get in ($17 each), that uses the tried and true National Enquirer-esque billboards, declaring in the same insane hyperbole the majesty and wonder of the place, in large numbers on the surrounding highways. Still though. A fucking underground waterfall? That’s cool as hell. How many of these can there be?
Ok well I just googled it and it looks like there’s a lot. And according to the website, there are about 400,000 visitors to the falls each year, which makes this decidedly pro-, rather than anti-,touristy. But it’s still pretty awesome, I thought. There’s a light show and “badass” music while you look, besides. Indulge me.
After descending into the cave, there’s a short hike back to the falls. Along the way, the elderly tour guide quips and jokes and gives a slight history, supplemented by an in-cave video about the background and history of the place. (There are huge plasma TVs down in there for this purpose.) In a nutshell, back in 1928 a guy named Leo Lambert wanted to make a tourist attraction out of nearby Lookout Mountain Caverns, and while gaining access to it he stumbled upon this cave, which ultimately led to the falls. Charmingly, he named them after his wife, Ruby. In the coming years, the cave has become a large tourist trap which has ensnared many people driving on by, including a couple of well known Anti Tourists (the first two on that list, if you clicked that link), who have created this short piece about it. Enjoy!
This is what it looks like to be behind an underground waterfall when other people are taking pictures.
By: Ben Britz
Photos by: Elizabeth Seward