Archive for Natural Bridge Virginia

Natural Bridge, Virginia

Posted in garden to visit, native plants with tags , , on November 4, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Natural Bridge in Virginia

My son Alex is a senior at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.  In early October, when we attended parents weekend, we decided to take in some of the local sites.  We had a wonderful visit to the Natural Bridge and the Natural Bridge Caverns just off Interstate 81 about an hour north of Roanoke in the heart of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains.  I highly recommend a stop if you are in the area.

You enter the gorge where the bridge is located down this steep stairway through the woods (or you can take a shuttle bus).

The Natural Bridge was created when an underground cavern, carved by Cedar Creek, a tributary of the James River, collapsed and left behind a span of its rock roof 215 feet high and 90 feet wide.  It is the kind of mammoth natural site that we normally only find in the western US.  The bridge is so big and substantial that Route 11, the state highway, runs across the top of it, and you don’t even notice the road.

The trail to the bridge is lovely and runs along Cedar Creek, a tributary of the James River.

The Natural Bridge is not only a natural wonder, but it is also a very significant  historic site. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been selected from that list of 65,000 to be one of only 2,430 National Historic Landmarks. The Natural Bridge was a sacred site of the Monacan Indians.  In 1750, it was surveyed by George Washington for Lord Fairfax, the owner of the original Virginia land grant of 1649.  In 1774, it was purchased by Thomas Jefferson as part of a 157 acre parcel acquired from King George III for 20 shillings.  Jefferson built a log cabin retreat there and entertained many famous guests.

When you see the Natural Bridge with people in front of it (bottom middle), you get an idea of how gigantic it is.

Like Niagara Falls, the Natural Bridge has been a tourist site since the late 18th century.  An inn was built in 1833, and today there is an on site hotel.  The property has always been privately owned and remains so today.  With tourist dollars a motivation for private owners, the surrounding area is somewhat degraded by unrelated attractions, including a wax museum, live butterfly exhibit, toy museum, and an extensive gift shop.  However the bridge area remains pristine, and the bridge itself is spectacular.  My photos taken on an overcast and dreary day do not do it justice.

Route 11 runs along the top.

The rock walls that line the gorge are very beautiful.

Along the trail we saw a lot of mostly native flora and fauna (I don’t know the exact IDs so no labels except the bird is a great blue heron):

When we were there, we also toured the Natural Bridge Caverns, the deepest caverns on the East Coast.  I didn’t take any photos, but the caverns were as spectacular as the bridge and well worth a visit.



Nursery Happenings:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall.  Thanks for a great year.  See you in spring 2013.

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