The Sevier County Electric System’s “Tennessee Connections” magazine for Spring 2024 posted this article on Tuckaleechee Caverns that we thought was worth sharing here. Tuckaleechee Caverns is an underground natural cavern attraction near Townsend, TN, that has been in operation for many decades and we are proud to feature both the Sevier County Electric System and Tuckeleechee Caverns at once.

Their article is as follows:

SCES Celebrates 85 Years And Its Oldest Customers

As Sevier County Electric System celebrates its 85th year of providing power to portions of Sevier, Blount and Jefferson counties, we would like to spotlight some of our oldest customers who have been with us for nearly as long.

Sevier County Electric System has proudly provided the citizens of Townsend with safe and reliable electricity since July 1952.

SCES purchased the Townsend Light and Mill company with 240 customers, from D.R. Tipton for $27,000. The Townsend line was built of leaky boiler tubes salvaged from the sawmill operation, with angle iron for cross bars. Today, a dedicated substation in Townsend services the 2,500 customers who live and work there.

Tuckaleechee Caverns
Nestled in the quiet rolling hills of the Dry Valley area in Townsend, Tuckaleechee Caverns have been one of the area’s top tourist attractions since the early 1950s. The caverns were originally opened for tours in 1931 by Earl McCampbell. However, this was short-lived and due to the economic impacts of the Great Depression, they closed within the next year. In 1953, two local business owners, Bill Vananda and Harry Myers, purchased the property and reopened the caverns for business and tours.

The first tours were given by the light of kerosene lamps, and it wasn’t until the caverns were wired for electricity in 1955 that visitors could fully appreciate the majestic view that awaited them.

The caverns are known for the Big Room – an area large enough to almost fit an entire football stadium. It is one of the largest cave rooms in the Eastern United States. The site is also known for Silver Falls, a towering two-tier waterfall that cascades some 210 feet from the cavern’s ceiling. Another larger room exists just beyond the Big Room but is off limits to the public because portion of the caverns would have to be destroyed to make it accessible.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Tuckaleechee Caverns is the seismograph system monitored by the United States Department of Defense and The United States Geological Survey. The caverns host the sensitive seismic station on Earth.

This equipment was originally installed by Tennessee Valley Authority when construction began on the TVA dams. The intent was to see what the water displacement would do to the tectonic plates in the area. Around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the United States military discovered how accurate and precise the station tracks the global tectonic movement all around the Earth. The military began upgrades from then on to use the station to detect nuclear testing across the globe.

The Tuckaleechee Caverns AS107 seismic station is now monitored 24/7 and has data transmitted via satellite to the U.S. Department of Defense; U.S. military; Geneva; Switzerland; Vienna; Austria; and the Pentagon within 300ths of a millisecond.

From modest beginnings of averaging nearly 1,000 customers per year, the caverns have grown in popularity as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has become one of the nation’s top tourist destinations. Now, some 50,000 people visit the caverns each year.

The caverns are open daily March 15th through November 15th and are closed each winter. They are located at 825 Cavern Road. Call 865-448-2274 for more information.

Sources include Wikipedia, Tuckaleechee Caverns Website and NBC Nightly News.

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