Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Ruby Falls is one of Chattanooga’s major tourist attractions. Its entrance is situated in a medieval-style stone edifice, Cavern Castle, located on the side of Lookout Mountain along Scenic Highway, from whence visitors are taken by elevator 260 feet down to the cave. Guided tours cover a distance of about 700 yards along an electrically lit passageway to the 145-foot falls. Along the way are numerous stone formations with such whimsical names as Leaning Tower, Beehives, and Hall of Dreams. Colored lights and music add drama to this natural spectacle. Upon leaving the cave visitors are treated to a panoramic view of the Tennessee River valley from atop the castle’s tower.
Ruby Falls’s commercial history dates to 1928, when the Lookout Mountain Cave Company, formed to reopen the cavern on a commercial basis, was in the process of drilling an elevator shaft to the regionally significant Lookout Mountain Cave. Passage into this large cavern, explored by Indians and early settlers and repeatedly used during the Civil War, had been recently cut off by an intersecting railroad tunnel. Midway into drilling the 400-foot elevator shaft, a passage opened into the falls cave. Leo Lambert and other corporate officials explored it and discovered the falls. Lambert subsequently named the falls after his wife, Ruby.
By 1930 both caves were open to the public. Ruby Falls proved far more popular, however, and tours of the lower cave eventually ceased. After years of financial struggle during the Great Depression, the Lookout Mountain Cave Company declared bankruptcy. New ownership launched an aggressive advertising campaign, based on roadside signs, and made Ruby Falls into a highly successful attraction. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors “See Ruby Falls.”
Thomas C. Barr Jr., Caves of Tennessee (reprint, 1990); Ed Brinkley, The History of Ruby Falls (reprint, 1980); John Wilson, Lookout: The Story of an Amazing Mountain (1977)