A review of Ruby Falls from someone with a disability by Aaron Tanner
Many in north Alabama are familiar with Chattanooga, Tennessee, and its many fun attractions. The city is close enough to Huntsville that people make the two-hour drive for a day trip or even a weekend.
For my birthday, I crossed an item off my Southern bucket list and went to Ruby Falls. My visit occurred towards the end of the day, about 6 P.M. Because tours often sell out, I bought my tickets in advance.
Although my ticket was for the 6:00 tour, I must admit I was a little confused about whether I was part of the 6 o’clock tour or the 6:30 trip as several groups were herded into the waiting area and brought down 260 feet below the surface to the cave via an elevator.
An introductory film shows how Ruby Falls started as an attraction. If I remember correctly, Leo Lambert was trying to find a new passageway to a cave on Lookout Mountain after the opening got buried after the side of the mountain was blasted to make way for a new railroad. While crawling on his stomach for over 17 hours, Lambert eventually not only found a new passageway but also discovered an underground waterfall and named it after his wife, Ruby.
The groups are split up due to the narrow space within the cave. I will admit there were a few brief moments where the line did not move in the cave, and I felt a little uncomfortable. Still, I was able to remain calm throughout the tour as well as walk and watch the people in front of me and the low cave ceilings at the same time. Also, there is only one way in and out of the cave, which meant that those headed towards the falls had to move over to let those leaving the falls, known as survivors, walk back towards the elevator.
Do not worry; the majority of my experience at Ruby Falls was positive. The tour guide was funny and explained the different stalagmites within the cave, including a cactus looking crystallized rock formation that people in the tour were allowed to touch. There were many impressive rock formations inside Ruby Falls including one of an elephant’s foot, a turtle, and of steak and potatoes.
The star of the attraction was the waterfall itself. When the lights were turned on, it was so mesmerizing seeing the illuminated water flow freely from the top to the bottom of the room with heavenly music playing in the background. Many tourists, including myself, took pictures of the falls, which have a red glow to them. Interestingly, no one knows where the water comes from that makes Ruby Falls.
After my tour was over, I went to the top of the old Ruby Falls rock castle to get a bird’s eye view of Chattanooga and the valley below at sunset. Although it was cloudy, it was still spectacular seeing all those city lights as the Tennessee River snaked its way between downtown and Moccasin Bend to the west of the city.
In the end, I rated Ruby Falls four circles out of five on TripAdvisor. I will admit that Ruby Falls is not exactly a sensory-friendly attraction and if you get sensory overload, keep in mind there is no cell service down in the cave. Noise can be an issue for brief moments when a large group of people is clustered together in a tight spot as there is nowhere for the sound to escape.
Also, one must be able to multitask as far as keeping up with the group while walking over surfaces that can at times be muddy and slippery. TripAdvisor recommends that those who cannot handle large crowds in such a small space to visit Ruby Falls either before 10 A.M. Eastern Time or after 6 P.M. Eastern Time. Since Ruby Falls is a cave, the attraction is not wheelchair accessible.
Overall, I’m not 100 percent sure I would go back. However, for a one time experience, it was worth it putting on a brave face and seeing a sight that has wooed Southerners for many generations.
What is your favorite cave that you have visited? Comment in the section below.