The Forbidden Caverns, Sevierville, TN

Good morning Everyone!

A Reflecting Pool at the Forbidden Caverns

I like caves but only certain caves.  I am not a spelunker – the thought of exploring previously unexplored or “wild” caves where I could run into all kinds of nasty creepy crawlies does not appeal to me.  At the sight of the first spider or flying bat, I’d  jump, hit my head on the cave ceiling and knock myself out, giving me the record for the shortest spelunking expedition in history.  Further investigation would reveal that the spider or bat was just a root or leaf I looked at the wrong way!

A Stalactite and Stalagmite about to meet - in another 100 years!

However, nice, tame caves where someone has considerately carved out a walkway through the depths of the earth for me to observe nature’s creativity, those caves I definitely enjoy.  The Forbidden Caverns has done exactly that, while preserving and protecting the natural cave formations which allows the cave to continue to grow and develop. 

Beginning Stalactites, called soda straws, along with flow formations on the right and left

The last time we went to the Forbidden Caverns, Kayla was three.  Because she was terrified of the dark, we were a little worried about the expedition, since there is one part where the guide turns off all of the lights for just a second so you can see how dark the cave really is.  We shouldn’t have worried; Kayla quickly realized that the tour guide kept a flashlight with her the entire time and knew where all the light switches in the cave were, so Kayla made sure, even at three, that we stayed just one step behind the guide!

"Young" columns, where stalactites and stalagmites have joined to make a single formation.

Seven years later, the cave is as fascinating as it was the first time we saw it.  This Thanksgiving trip, Kayla, although she was a little more subtle about it, still made sure that we stayed very close to the guide. 

Either a very old column, or rock carved out by underground water

The Forbidden Caverns were used by Native Americans in the area for centuries before Europeans arrived, although the way in which they used it is not entirely certain – the cave area was considered taboo by the Indians, which is where the name Forbidden Caverns first came from. 

Remains of the Moonshine Stills

During Prohibition (FN),  moonshiners used part of the cave as the base of their operations, until law enforcement discovered the location and raided the cave.  The locals brewed the moonshine by the original entrance to the cave, which involves a very steep 500 foot climb to the surface.  I tried to imagine making that climb while hauling a big jug or cask of moonshine with you at the same time, and decided that the moonshine business during Prohibition must have been extremely lucrative. 

The way up to the natural entrance!

Most of the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites are still growing.  The guide said that you can remember that stalactites are cave formations that grow down from the cave roof because they “hold tight to the ceiling” and that stalagmites are cave formations that grow from the floor of the cave upward because they “might reach the ceiling some day.”  I thought that was a pretty good way to remember it!  Where a stalactite and stalagmite meet, they form what is known as a column. 

One opening showing the underground river

The Forbidden Caverns have many stalactites, stalagmites and columns, and a swift moving underground river, as well as several formations of white onyx, including the largest known white onyx wall formation in the United States.  The mining of onyx in the United States is not allowed, according to our cave guide, because there really is not enough of it in the country to make it lucrative.  It’s just as well, because if it was legal I doubt the wall would have survived for people to see it!

Another Picture of the Underground River

For those of you who, like me, probably will never tackle a “wild” cave, the Forbidden Caverns is a fascinating experience – and somewhere during the tour, for just a split second, you might even imagine yourself out in the wilderness exploring the cave on your own.  My flight of fancy lasted exactly the ten seconds it took to see a bat sleeping on the cave roof but it was fun while it lasted!

Have a great day everyone!


FN.  For my non-American readers, Prohibition was a time in the 1920’s and 1930’s when, by a constitutional amendment, alcoholic beverages of all kinds were banned in the United States.  The amendment was later repealed.

Moonshine is one form of “home-brewed” alcohol that was, and still is, illegal in the United States.  Moonshine is illegal partly because either the federal government or the state governments strictly regulate the production and sale of alcohol and partly because if the brewer makes a mistake in brewing, it is poisonous.

6 responses to “The Forbidden Caverns, Sevierville, TN

  1. Great pictures! They make me want to check it out!

  2. That was a favorite field trip when I was little! If you’re in the area, the Lost Sea Cave (large underground lake w/ glass bottom boats) and Mammoth Cave KY are cool too! 🙂

    • We’ve driven past the signs for the Lost Sea on our way to various places in Tennessee, and would very much like to see it some day! I’ll keep Mammoth Cave in Kentucky in mind, too. Thanks!

  3. I can only look, not venture into a cave. Claustrophobia, even elevators give me the willies. Glad you had a great experience. Keep taking us along.

  4. Fascinating post Nancy (spelunker extraordinaire), with great pictures. Very interesting that the caves were used by moonshiners during prohibition.

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