If you’re awestruck by the sight of the Natural Bridge, Virginia’s great stone archway and registered historic landmark; then you are not alone. Upon seeing the Natural Bridge in the 1774, America’s founding father Thomas Jefferson became so entranced, that he purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings!
Considered by many as one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World,” the Natural Bridge Park connects the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains with a single passage of rock. The Bridge offers a number of nature-based educational events including the Cedar Creek Nature Trail, the Monacan Indian Village, natural caverns, and an indoor butterfly garden.
With more than 1600 acres of wildlife habitat, streams, and caves; the park offers a wonderful place to view wildlife, rare bats, and unusual plants. Common sightings include ravens, Louisiana waterthrush, green heron, and queen and water snakes, butterflies like the red-spotted purple, the eastern comma, and several species of swallowtail. Native wildflowers include the large-flowered trillium, jack-in-the- pulpit, and wild columbine.
The Monacan Indian Settlement
– According to tradition, the Monacan Indian people called the Natural Bridge “The Bridge of God” after discovering it while evading an advancing enemy centuries ago. Today, visitors can step back in time more than 300 years to learn what life was like in a typical Monacan Indian village including exhibits on cooking, tool production, pottery, basket weaving, gardening, and more.
Caverns – The Natural Bridge Caverns feature the enormous Dome Room, a dome shaped indoor cavern, Mirror Lake, the Well Room, and numerous stalactites and stalagmites. The caverns were discovered just before the turn of the 20th century and opened to the public in 1977.
– In 1833, Jefferson’s heirs sold the site and the new owner erected the Forest Inn to accommodate the increasing number of people visiting the area. So popular was the site that Herman Melville alluded to the bridge in describing Moby-Dick: “But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia’s Natural Bridge…” While the hotel had many incantations, eventually burning in 1963; today the historic Natural Bridge Inn has 90 sleeping rooms and a world-class Conference Center.
Did you Know?
– According to local legend, a young George Washington surveyed the Natural Bridge site in 1750 for Lord Fairfax, and landmarks of his work still exist today including George Washington’s initials that were carved into the wall of the bridge.