Caverns in Tennessee

Have you ever explored your way through natural caverns?

Caves are often the mysterious wonders of earth.

Did you know moonshiners often sought refuge in caves during the Prohibition Era?

Some caves are easily explored while others require a great deal of skill.

Never explore a cave alone and without the proper safety equipment!

Types and formation:

The formation and development of caves occur over the course of millions of years. Caves are formed by various geologic processes and can be variable sizes. These may involve a combination of chemical processes, erosion from water, tectonic forces, microorganisms, pressure, and atmospheric influences. Isotopic dating techniques can be applied to cave sediments, in order to determine the timescale when geologic events may have occurred to help form and shape present day caves.

It is estimated that the maximum depth of a cave cannot be more than 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) due to the pressure of overlying rocks.

  • Solutional caves form in limestone when it is dissolved by natural acid in groundwater that seeps through the cracks in the rocks. Limestone caves are often adorned with calcium carbonate formations produced through slow precipitation. These include flowstones, stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, soda straws and columns. The portions of a solutional cave that are below the water table or the local level of the groundwater will be flooded. Carlsbad Cavern is believed to be an example of a solutional cave.
  • Lava tubes are formed as lava flows downhill, its surface cools and solidifies. Hot liquid lava continues to flow under that crust, and if most of it flows out, a hollow tube remains.
  • Sea caves are found along coasts around the world and are formed by wave action in zones of weakness in sea cliffs.
  • Erosional caves are those that form entirely by erosion by flowing streams carrying rocks and other sediments. These can form in any type of rock, including hard rocks such as granite.
  • Glacier caves are formed by melting ice and flowing water within and under glaciers.
  • Fracture caves are formed when layers of more soluble minerals, such as gypsum, dissolve out from between layers of less soluble rock..
  • Talus caves are formed by the openings among large boulders that have fallen down into a random heap, often at the bases of cliffs.
  • Anchialine caves containing a mixture of freshwater and saline water (usually sea water).


Below is a list of 16 caves throughout Tennessee that are definitely worth visiting while in the area:

    • Appalachian Caverns – Blountville, TN
    • Bell Witch Cave – Adams, TN
    • Bristol Caverns – Bristol, TN
    • Cedars of Lebanon – Lebanon, TN
    • Cumberland Caverns – McMinnville, TN
    • Dunbar Cave – Clarksville, TN
    • Forbidden Caverns – Sevierville, TN
    • Grundy State Forest – Tracy City, TN
    • Limestone Quarry Cave – Erin, TN
    • Nickajack Cave – Jasper, TN
    • Raccoon Mountain Caverns – Chattanooga, TN
    • Ruby Falls – Chattanooga, TN
    • Sequatchie Cave – Sequatchie, TN
    • Southport Saltpeter Cave – Lynnville, TN (Visit Miller’s Cave Recreation Area for a guided tour; and be ready for a challenge)
    • The Lost Sea – Sweetwater, TN
    • Tuckaleechee Caverns – Townsend, TN

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