Finding that my Baby Boy Still Needs Me While Visiting Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a 145 foot high underground waterfall.  To get to Ruby Falls, you take an elevator  below ground and walk through the caves with a tour guide.  Doesn’t sound too bad, right?  If you don’t like enclosed spaces, definitely avoid this attraction.  It isn’t very tight, except in one or two spots, but you are definitely underground.  In a cave.

My seven year old son would be the first to tell you how awful it is.

He would know because as soon as we got out of the elevator he had what most therapists would call a full-blown panic attack.


After you get out of the elevator, you take a tourist picture with the cave structures in the background and then continue on to wait for the guide and the rest of the group.  He was distracted by the fun elevator ride and the picture taking process but when we were waiting for the guide, he had time to look around and realize that we were underground.

In a dark and creepy cave.

The panic set in and he was not to be consoled.  Luckily, we were able to calm him down before the rest of the group was finished with the photo extravaganza.  We also had a wonderful guide that was a complete goofball and got Big S to laugh and forget (sort of) that we were in a cave.  I used his signals to decide that he could make it through the tour so we decided to go spelunking on.

It wasn’t quite the cave tour I was expecting and I can’t really tell you much about the visit because I was trying to make sure that my son was doing well.  I do remember the feeling I had when I realized that this was the same boy who recently told me that I could stop checking on him when he is playing in the backyard.  At the beginning of the summer, this same boy told me that he wanted to make his own lunch while he is home for the summer because “he knows what he likes and can make it himself.”  This is the same boy who argued with me at a rest stop because he didn’t think he needed to go in the women’s restroom anymore.  He is seven after all and will be fine using the men’s room according to him.  I relented then but as I wandered through the cave with his still small hand gripping mine like a vice, I was reminded that this boy still needs me even though he is starting to show more and more signs of his own independence.

Once we got to Ruby Falls, he was acting like we do this sort of thing all the time but he never let go of my hand.

When you get to the waterfall, you are warned that it will be dark.  They have the lights set on a timer so that each group moves on in a timely manner.  When the lights come on (complete with a clap on, clap off motion from our tour guide) so does some soothing new age type music.  There is a short show of lights that change color behind the waterfall.  It has a cheesy and glitzy quality about it but there is something awe-inspiring the first moment the lights go on and this is what you see…

In case you were wondering, we made it out of the cave in one piece and my son declared the adventure a success.


  1. 1

    Great story. No matter how much prompting I give my kids to start showing a few more signs of independence (I wish my 10 year old would want to make her own snacks!) there’s still something kind of nice when it turns out that they still want your help when something is new or scary. I can see his point though. The waterfall looks really cool, but I don’t know about pitch black in a cave.

  2. 2

    Was this your first experience in a cave or was this just creepier than most? 🙂 We had considered visiting Ruby Falls on several ocassions but skipped it because we’d been to some really cool caves and weren’t sure that it would compete fairly.
    How sweet that you were able to hold that little guy’s hand once more. Seems like it definitely made the trip worth it. 🙂