Natural Wonders of Rockbridge County
By Casey L. Higgins, Freelance Writer
Rockbridge County's namesake has long been called one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Indeed, Natural Bridge has a long history of drawing visitors from near and far to stand in awe of its presence. Yet, the Natural Bridge is simply the most well-known of our area's natural wonders, not the only natural wonder we have to offer. Allow us to introduce the others.
The large 8-acre boulder field on the side of a mountain in the James River Face Wilderness may appear to be man-made, but it isn't. These bus-, car-, and appliance-sized Antietam Quartzite boulders surfaced from within the mountain thanks to years upon years of erosion. You may find this blog by Mary Caperton Morton, a travel-writing geologist, to be of interest.
Caverns at Natural Bridge
A 45-minute tour of the Caverns at Natural Bridge includes descending 34 stories into the depths of the Earth, an experience showcasing the deepest caverns on the East Coast of the United States. Underground lakes, stalactites, stalagmites, and incredible naturally-formed structures are on full display.
Carved by the Maury River, Goshen Pass is the oldest state-managed natural area preserve in Virginia. Stretching nearly four miles, the gorge itself is home to rare flora and fauna like the Appalachian jewelwing damselfly. The Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve is 937 acres and can be experienced by water or on foot. It's a popular destination for whitewater enthusiasts in spring and sunbathers in summer. Leaf peepers thoroughly enjoy a fall visit to Goshen Pass, and Route 39 is part of the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway. Access to Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve is by permit.
St. Mary's Wilderness
More than 9,800 acres make up St. Mary's Wilderness straddling northern Rockbridge County and southern Augusta County. St. Mary's River was once a haven for brown trout fishermen and efforts have given rise to the fish population once more. St. Mary's River is also the deliverer of a significant waterfall that draws hikers to see its beauty and dip their toes in the water.
Natural Bridge State Park
The crowning jewel of our natural wonder crown is Natural Bridge State Park. Once included in the acreage owned by Thomas Jefferson, he declared the iconic limestone arch "the most sublime of Nature's works." We concur, Mr. Jefferson.
The Natural Bridge looms 215 feet overhead as visitors walk along the Cedar Creek on the Cedar Creek Trail. Take your time to look at the bridge from every angle and in as many lighting conditions as possible to enjoy it in all its glory. An evening "Drama of Creation" light show and narration offers yet another way to experience one of our favorite destinations.