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Cave Life May 2017


Cave Life May 2017

Coming Up On June 6: National Day of Caves and Karst

The National Caves Association has declared June 6 as National Day of Caves and Karst to increase awareness of the roles, both play in our lives and the environment.

“There’s just so much to see, learn and discover under-ground,” says Patty Perlaky, president of the National Caves Association. “Our hope with the National Day of Caves and Karst on June 6 is to encourage people to tour at least one cave this summer.”

Five Reasons To Visit A Cave



According to the NCA, here are five reasons to visit a cave near you

  1. See things you have never seen before. No two caves are alike. There are many caves with water features, such as underground rivers, pristine lakes, and raging waterfalls. Cumberland Caverns has the waterfalls, sparkling pools and so much more to experience and enjoy.
  2. Spend quality time with family. Some of the best memories are made during summer vacations and staycations.
  3. Cave tours are educational and teach you about the history of the cave and surrounding areas.
  4. Spending time in nature has many benefits. Multiple studies show that nature boosts our mental and physical well-being.
  5. Caves are fun. These aren’t your grandfather’s cave tours. Options for exploring and spending time in caverns are increasing each year. In addition to walking tours and spelunking, guests are now treated to concerts, boat rides, and even kayak rentals inside some caves.

In Middle Tennessee, we live in a karst area. There are five unusual surface features in a karst region, which includes: springs, sinkholes, sinking streams, cave entrances, and underground streams. Living on land with Karst features is like living on Swiss cheese.

There are about 17,000 known caves in the United States. They occur in every State except Rhode Island and Louisiana. About 125 caves have been opened to the public for study and enjoyment. Of these, 15 are in national parks or monuments, and 30 are in State parks. The remainder is privately owned and operated. Most of these caves are in the Appalachian Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, the Black Hills, and the limestone regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana.

Make plans to go underground this year and experience a magnificent world hidden just beneath your feet.

Special thanks to the NCA and USGS for contributions to this article.




Summer adventure awaits!

Join us each Tuesday and Thursday, June 1st through August 31 at 12:45 p.m. CST, for our spelunktacular Rocky Topper Adventure Tour.

Twist, turn, climb and wind your way through passages deep within the cavern as you and your group enjoy the cool 56-degree climate, share lots of laughs, and make many happy memories.

The Rocky Topper adventure is about 3⁄4 of a mile, takes approximately 2.5-3 hours to complete and is of moderate intensity.

Cost: $40 per person

Ages: 6 and up

Difficulty Level: Moderate




Bluegrass Underground

  • June 3 – The Revelers
  • June 17 – Larry Stephenson Band
  • June 24 – Peter Rowan
  • July 15 – Jesse McReynolds Band
  • August 12 – Tennessee Mafia Jug Band
  • August 26 – Maura O’Connell

Contact Bluegrass Underground for the latest updates.

Meet The Grand Lady



Grand Lady of the Ballroom

Every cavern boasts unique qualities not found in any other cave, but Cumberland Caverns took it to another level when a stunning 8.5’x15’, 3⁄4 ton chandelier was raised to light the Volcano Room in 1982.

The grand lady of the ballroom was acquired from the Loew’s Metropolitan Theatre in Brooklyn, NY. She had been rescued by Roy Davis, who just so happened to be at the location to purchase a massive pipe organ during one of the theater’s final renovations in the early 1980’s. The story goes, workers had intended on cutting the cable and letting the beautiful antique hit the floor, but upon hearing of their plans, Mr. Davis offered to take the chandelier along with the organ, and the manager agreed to include it in their deal.

The chandelier hung at the historic theater for over 50 years and witnessed the evolution of film from the time it opened on September 15, 1918, until its closure in 1996. During that time, it accumulated a lot of smoke, dust, and popcorn grease. How do you clean a chandelier? Well, according to Roy Davis, you spray it off at the carwash. Roy also tells a funny story of chasing crystal beads all over the parking lot as well.

After the chandelier was in place inside the cave for a year, employees noticed beads accumulating on the floor underneath. Upon closer inspection, it was learned the wires holding them in place were rusting in two. The Grand Lady had to be removed and underwent a complete restringing of the metal wires to copper line. This process was done over a two-year period with friends gathering on weekends for dinner stringing parties. She now has a solid foundation that will last for years to come.

And that is the tale of how a beautiful, priceless crystal chandelier from New York came to call a cave in Middle Tennessee home.

On a side note, the Loew’s Metropolitan Theater underwent a massive restoration from 2000-2002 and is now the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.


Grand Lady of the Ballroom at Cumberland Caverns

Loew’s Metropolitan Theatre: Brooklyn, NY 1918-1996

Grand Lady of the Ballroom at Cumberland Caverns
Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns Home of Bluegrass Underground

Cumberland Caverns: Volcano Room 1982-present

Cave Life April 2017

Welcome back to the Cumberland Caverns “Cave Life” Newsletter.

Were you aware there are 10,309 known caves in Tennessee? In fact, Tennessee boasts the highest number of caves in the U.S. with the majority running right down the middle of the state. For a natural earth cavity to qualify and be listed as a cave on the Tennessee Cave Survey database it must meet or exceed the following measurements: horizontal length 50ft., total vertical extent of 40ft. or a pit depth of 30ft. Cumberland Caverns exceeds these guidelines and is ranked among the largest caves in the world.

2017 April Newsletter_Map

More Cave News

What is a Cave

A cave is a natural void under the earth’s surface, and most caves are formed in soluble rock, usually limestone. Solution caves are formed over millions of years when rock is slowly dissolved by slightly acidic water. Terrains that show evidence of solution caves, such as sinkholes and springs, are called Karst. Cumberland Caverns is known as a solution cave and was formed by two underground rivers. When these two rivers converged, creating a whirlpool, they carved out what is now known as the ‘Volcano Room.’ Evidence of this can be seen in the beautiful sculpted ceiling that covers the great hall.


The importance of cave preservation is monumental for our environment and history. Karst regions are bountiful in the most beneficial spring water, rare animals, and minerals not found anywhere else on earth. Research done in caves also provides scientist with valuable insight on the geological and climate change of the area. Caves also preserve fragile archaeological and paleontological materials for millennia.

Cumberland Caverns is committed to cave conservation through commercialization and are thrilled to be able to share this amazing experience with all of you. We know you’re going to love this adventure, and miracle of nature, as much as we do.

“Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints.”- National Speleological Society


Spelunking is extreme hiking done deep beneath the earth’s surface. When you venture below for the experience of a lifetime, you never have to worry about inclement weather or pesky bugs ruining your outing. If you want to take adventure to the next level, join us for a Caveman Campout. Schedule your reservation today.

*Rocky Topper is also offered every Saturday at 1:00 CST with no reservation required.


Bluegrass Underground

  • May 6 – Town Mountain
  • June 3 – The Revelers
  • June 17 – Larry Stephenson Band
  • June 24 – Peter Rowan
  • July 15 – Jesse McReynolds Band

For the latest updates and concert information:


Cave Life Feature

Big Smo Plays For Charity

April 1st welcomed very talented artists Big Smo and Hayden Carpenter to the stage in a charity event held for Monroe Carroll Jr.’s Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

When the cave was initially approached by Jamie Brock and Marie Ann Turpin about doing the fundraiser, we knew this was an opportunity to help the community, but had no idea to what extent. The hard work by Jamie, Marie, and all the volunteers was well rewarded as they were able to submit a check for over $10k to the hospital to help better the lives of others in need. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is very close to the hearts of many, including first-hand experiences by many people in attendance, and both Ms. Brock and Big Smo. Big Smo’s daughter was born prematurely and he and his family spent a lot of time at the facility counting down the days until they could take her home.

During Big Smo’s performance, he requested an entourage of help on stage from the children in attendance. What fun they had being Smo’s backup singers, dancers, and stage support. It will be a memory that lasts a lifetime for sure!

The cave would like to thank everyone, the guests, volunteers, and artists for coming out and making this event such a huge success. We appreciate the opportunity to help make miracles happen.


For almost 60 years Lewis Lamon, Jr has called Cumberland Caverns his home away from home. Most of you know Lewis from your visits to the cave, as he was on hand daily to greet and entertain guests with his wonderful stories of the cave transformation over the years. We just wanted you to know, Lewis suffered a heart attack recently. He is doing great, but while he is recuperating, we thought it would be nice for his cave family and friends to reach out and send him some well wishes for a complete and speedy recovery. If you would like to send Lewis a card, his address is: 415 Pace St., McMinnville, TN 37110.

Cave Life March 2017

2017 March Newsletter Sally the Salamander

Welcome to the first edition of Cumberland Caverns “Cave Life” Newsletter.

A US National Natural Landmark located in McMinnville, Tennessee, Cumberland Caverns was discovered in 1810 by a land surveyor named Aaron Higgenbotham. Since then, the cave has been an important part of not only the history of Warren County, but also the War of 1812 and the Civil War, by the mining of saltpeter-which is used in the production of gunpowder.

In early years, the cave was a hot spot for hay wagon parties and an unofficial meeting place for the community. In 1956, fueled by the dream of Tank Gorin, Roy Davis, and A.W. Powell, Cumberland Caverns opened its doors to the public. The first years were slow, only seeing approximately 500 guests per year, but with the addition of several adventure tours, concerts, specials, and caveman campouts (that’s right, you can sleep in our cave), the attendance soared to over 52K in 2016.

The Underground

In 2008, Todd Mayo visited the cave with his family and upon crossing the balcony overlooking the Volcano Room lit by a massive antique crystal chandelier, he envisioned a grand concert hall filled with people and incredible music. He, along with his business partner Todd Jerrell, began producing an Emmy Award winning concert series shown on PBS from 333’ below. “Bluegrass Underground” and “Live from the Underground” offers not only the best in Bluegrass, but appeals to everyone with a wide range of Country, Americana, Rock, Soul, Jazz, Blues and everything in between. Concerts are held monthly and a listing of shows and more info can be found on their website at:

Bring your family and friends to experience what others from all 50 states and 19 different countries already know there is something magical about Cumberland Caverns!


Cumberland Caverns is now offering two of our most popular adventures as overnight excursions:

Higgenbotham’s Revenge (ages 12 and up) and Parts Unknown (ages 16 and up). Step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary when you take on one of our overnight Caveman Campouts. We have combined extreme hiking with underground camping for exciting adventures you and your crew will be talking about for years to come.

Whether you are looking for an escape or want to test your abilities, we have a spelunking trek that is just right for you. Call us today at 931-668-4396 and let us book the adventure of a lifetime for your group.





Bluegrass Underground

  • March 24, 25, 26 – Season VII Taping
  • April 8 – The Larry Keel Experience & Rumpke Mountain Boys
  • April 22 – Dale Ann Bradley w/SHEL

Charity Events

  • April 1 – BIG SMO w/Hayden Carpenter for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital


  • Rocky Topper every Saturday at 1:00 CST No reservation required.
Cave Life Feature

Going Batty at The Cave

Approximately 1500 little brown bats (scientific name: Myotis lucifugus) make Cumberland Caverns their home. Typically, bats live in areas of the cave that are not frequented by guests, but we do have a few who like to hang around on the rock ledges and overhangs of the Daily Walking Tour trail.

Our bats grow to about 3.5” and weigh about 1/4 of an ounce. Not only are they small, but they often blend in with the cave walls and go virtually unnoticed. Sometimes, you will see one fly high above the chandelier of the Volcano Room, but don’t worry, they are harmless and never come into contact with the humans below.

Bats are very important part of the ecosystem. They are the primary predators of night flying insects and studies suggest they consume 70% of their body weight each evening. That’s approximately 1000 insects per hour and nursing mothers can eat upwards of 4000 bugs per hour! Bats are also beneficial in pollination and seed dispersal. Most people think that only birds and bees aid in pollination, but bats are the nightshift of the operation.

If you see bats around your home, have no fear; contrary to the urban myths, bats aren’t looking to take a bite out of you, they are just searching for a safe and warm place to call home.

Bat Facts

  • Bats have excellent eyesight.
  • No vampire bats live in the United States.
  • Some bats hibernate for the winter, but can survive freezing temperatures-even after being encased in ice!
  • Bats typically only have one baby a year and they can distinguish their pup from thousands, even millions of others, by the way it sounds and smells.
  • Bat droppings (guano) are one of the richest sources of fertilizer.
  • The largest bat is the “flying fox” that lives on the islands of the South Pacific. Their wing span can reach up to 6 feet.
  • The smallest bat is the bumble bee bat of Thailand, which is smaller than a thumbnail and weighs less than a penny.