Everyone loves a good mystery. We are infatuated with uncovering the rhyme or reason for why something was done or uncovering something no one else has. Curiosity about the unknown sparks our imagination which can lead to new discoveries. Mysteries surround us every day, and for the thousands that travel to Ruby Falls each year, they are right under their feet.
Located below the caverns of Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain Cave was put to good use by animals and people long before Ruby Falls was discovered. This ancient cave, now closed to the public, holds some mysteries that will never be solved and some that have been thoroughly researched. One of the most curious findings in Lookout Mountain Cave are 13 square stone boxes that sit on the cave floor. They were not made by natural formations within the cave, and while there are a few theories on their origin, no definitive proof is available to tell who made them or why they did. It is a secret only the stone walls can answer.
Another discovery that can be tied to human hands are the plethora of signatures carved into the cave by Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The Battles for Chattanooga were critical to the preservation of the Union, and both sides took refuge within the cave walls. Some of the soldiers left proof behind in the form of their names. One of the earliest signatures is that of 18-year-old Union Army Corporal Calvin Frederick. There are also many signatures with the initials C.S.A. under them, designating service in the Confederate Army.
Of course, humans aren’t the only ones to use the cave as a place to seek shelter. Many varieties of wildlife have used Lookout Mountain Cave for thousands of years as a place of refuge. Kent Ballew, Resident Cave Expert at Ruby Falls, set off in 1992 to explore deep within Lookout Mountain Cave. What he found made the difficult journey worthwhile—jaguar skeletons. Three to be precise. One appeared to die while asleep, one was stuck in a hole, and another was in a stream bed. There were also numerous bear and jaguar tracks.
Evidence of other animals that have used the cave for sanctuary has been found over the years. A 1982 expedition unearthed bones from many different animals, including deer, grouse, fox, Hellbent Salamander, woodchuck, and even the pig-like peccary. The bones were taken to the Louisville Museum of Natural History and Science where they were properly identified.
While Lookout Mountain Cave is no longer open for public exploration, there’s still a world of wonder to discover in the caverns at Ruby Falls. After seeing the amazing geological marvels throughout Ruby Falls, it’s easy to appreciate why cavers, like Kent Ballew, find the appeal of discovering the mysteries that lie beneath us a call that’s hard to resist.
Plan a trip to make your own discoveries at Ruby Falls by going to www.rubyfalls.com, where you can plan your trip and buy tickets.