Natural Bridge State Park - A Collapsed Cave Over Cedar Creek

Dear Henry,

About an hour from Roanoke, there is an interesting geological feature called Natural Bridge. Let me tell you all about it. 

Natural bridge is a 215-foot tall / 90-foot wide limestone feature that spans Cedar creek. There is a lot of science about how this particular feature formed, something about the Beekmantown Group, Chepultepec Formation, and Sauk Sea, which brought the limestone here 450 million years ago. Then, about 500,000 to 1 million years ago,  Cedar Creek eroded a cave through this giant block of limestone. The cave's roof later collapsed, leaving a small portion that formed the natural bridge. 

In pre-colonial America, this was the home to the Monacan people but was quickly overcome by settlers after the arrival of English colonials, despite the Treaty of 1677. As a result, many Monacan people ended up leaving the area and moving north. Eventually, the gorge would be claimed by the British Colonial Government and given to the King.

Thomas Jefferson purchased the area in 1774 from King George III and immediately turned it into a natural place, hiring a freedman named Patrick Henry as the gorge's caretaker and tourguide. Colonial artists were regular tourists, and the bridge is now one of early American art's most painted geological features.   Fortunately, the area did fall under private ownership. It protected the area and prevented its destruction.

The park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and became the 37th Virginia State Park in 2016. 

While there are seven miles of trails in the area, we just took the 1.8-mile hike down to Cedar Creek and under the Natural Bridge. Past the bridge, there are several small caves along the trail and a recreated Monacan village. Unfortunately, the Monacan guides were not there the day we took our trip, but the exhibit looks very interesting. 

The trail ends at a 30-foot cascade called Lace Falls.

It is a beautiful hike, and the area's geology is a must-see. It is important to note, though, that the stairs to get into the gorge are very steep and numerous. Getting down to Cedar Creek would be challenging for anyone with trouble walking.

The park is open from 9am to dusk, with a $6.00 per person entry fee.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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