Sweetwater sure to offer relaxing vacation option

Sweetwater sure to offer relaxing vacation option

September 18th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Glimpse 2011

The Lost Sea is illuminated by underwater lights June 1, 2005, in Sweetwater, Tenn. The Lost Sea is the world's second largest underground lake.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Those looking to lie by lakes, shop several stores, hear about history or sail the sea will all find something to love about Sweetwater.

The town is a short drive from several lakes and nature parks; Monroe County is about 30 percent national forests.

"We're real big on parks around here," said City Recorder Jessica Morgan. "There are lots of recreation opportunities."

But when most people think of Sweetwater, they think of another type of adventure. Buried deep beneath the Craighead Caverns is The Lost Sea, America's largest underground lake.

Once the adventure is over, whatever it may be, the friendly locals are more than happy to help tourists relax, enjoy the historic buildings and shop the variety of antiques shops and other stores.

"It's kind of a nostalgic small town," Morgan said. "It's got a lot of historic buildings, antique shopping, women's clothing and jewelry stores."

For the thriftiest shoppers, the town is home to the largest flea market in East Tennessee.

But no matter the activity, Morgan said the lifestyle in Sweetwater will keep people coming back.

"You could spend a week here and have plenty to do," she said. "It's Southern, laid back, just a good time."

AT A GLANCE

-- Population: 5,586.

-- Best thing to do: Sweetwater is home to The Lost Sea, America's largest underground lake. The lake offers boat ride adventures, cave tours, food and crafts.

-- Biggest employers: Sweetwater Hospital Association and industrial manufacturing company Aeroflex.

-- Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 72

-- Landmarks: The city sits next to Sweetwater Creek, a several-miles-long branch emptying into Watts Bar Lake. Sweetwater also is home to the Craighead Caverns, an extensive cave system containing The Lost Sea.

-- Date Founded: Dec. 10, 1875.

-- Historic info: The Gay Theater and other incarnations of it have operated in town since 1929. A Civil War Trail marker was recently placed in Sweetwater to commemorate the importance of the town's railroad depot. The same post office has been serving the town since 1938.

-- Unique Traditions: Each year, Sweetwater residents get together on the second Tuesday in December to celebrate "A Small Towne Christmas." With horse and buggy rides, late-night shopping and even an appearance by Santa Clause himself, the night is a great way for families to kick off the holiday in a quaint, friendly setting.

-- Best-kept secret: This year will be the town's first National Muscadine Festival celebrating the harvest of the sweet fruit. The two-day festival held in September brings live music, inflatables, food and family fun to the area.

-- Something you didn't know: Sweetwater isn't just for relaxing. The town is just 20 minutes from two lakes and houses its own recreation complex.