Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee is one of the many cavern systems in the state. Tennessee is well known for their caverns. Cumberland Caves has some of the largest underground rooms in the eastern United States. The caverns were recently open for tours year round. The tours include educational tours, overnight spelunking trips, adventure tours, group tours, and banquets. Cumberland Caverns is located off of Interstate 24 and Highway 55. Tickets are $10 for children between six and twelve, and adult prices are $15.
Cumberland Caverns started out as part of the Higgenbotham Cave and Henshaw Cave, but after careful exploration it was decided that the cave system was so vast and large that the two caves were linked, thus making it Cumberland Caves. There are more than 32 miles as part of the cave system. Aaron Higgenbotham discovered the first portion of the cave in 1810. He was trapped on a ledge for three days because his torch when out. Shortly after the Civil War it was found that a 60 foot wide and 10 foot high room that is 2000 feet long existed in this cave. It is called the "Ten Acre Room.''
In 1812 the Henshaw Cave was mined for Nitrates that would be used for the war of 1812 and later in the Civil War. The National Speleological Society began to explore both caves in 1945, eventually starting a new entrance in 1950. By 1956 the cave system was opened up for the first visitor. Still, it has been only recently that they are open past the popular tourist months of summer.
Visitors to Cumberland Caverns will be taken to the largest underground rooms that are part of the cave system. Stalagmites and stalactites have grown from floor to ceiling, meeting each other to create huge columns. Some of the saltpeter can still be seen in the walls, though a lot of it was removed during the mining. The daily walking tours take visitors to the "God of the Mountain,'' Bone room, Volcano room, Ten Acre room, Meat Grinder, Oasis, or the Endless Waterfall. Not all rooms are given on the same tour, as the area contains 27 miles. A day trip will take visitors to a certain section of the tour area that is a half mile. Individuals get to see the gleaming pools of water and waterfall. Inside the Cumberland Caverns it is 56 degrees, constantly.
The Spelunking Adventure Trips will take groups of 10 to 250 people through the caves. Individuals are allowed to crawl, climb, and go through muddy areas to explore the cave. The ladders and ledges in the cave can be reached while on the tour. The unusual sites of the cave are part of the tour. For the night the group will bunk down at 500 feet. Educational tours are designed for students who want to learn about geology, history, and wildlife of the caverns. The tour provides lunch in one of the larger rooms with the three- quarter ton chandelier in the Volcano room.
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