By Saul Schwartz
My wife Fern and I spent one day/night in August touring the sights near the Natural Bridge, about 3 hours from Alexandria. We stayed at the Wyndham Natural Bridge Hotel, 15 Appledore Lane. This hotel is within walking distance of the Natural Bridge State Park and featured reasonable room rates (normally $109 per night), as well as an-site restaurant with an extensive breakfast menu. Guest rooms are comfortable but outdated and in need of a “refreshing.”
Dedicated in 2016, the Natural Bridge State Park (admission $9 for adults) is listed on the National Historic Landmark. Clearly the highlight is the 215 foot tall Natural Bridge, a limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek. We also enjoyed walking along the Cedar Creek Trail that leads from the park’s large Visitor Center, under the Natural Bridge, past a model Monacan Indian Village and ending at the Lace Falls, a waterfall with a 30-foot cascade. The trail became flat after we descended a series of stairs from the Visitor Center to the entrance.
The Natural Bridge was surveyed by George Washington and once owned by Thomas Jefferson. This geological formation is an amazing natural arch of sold grey limestone with a span of 90 feet. One of the nation’s first tourist destinations, the Bridge was then considered one of the natural wonders of the world. We were surprised to learn that the Bridge is higher than Niagara Falls.
Side Trips: The Buchanan Swinging Bride is ten miles south of the Natural Bridge, near a concrete vehicular bridge. A free parking lot is located at 687 Lowe Street in Buchanan. The James River crosses under the 366-foot-long bridge. Originally built in 1851, portions of the current bridge were rebuilt in 1937 after being washed away by floods and burned in the Civil War. We had fun as the bridge swayed as we crossed back and forth.
The main campus of Virginia Tech is about one hour south of the Natural Bridge, in Blacksburg. We strolled through the sprawling campus which contains more than 130 buildings over 2600 acres. Most of the beautiful neo-classical academic buildings and residence halls are made of different colored limestone, some of which is mined from Southwestern Virginia quarries. During our time there, many of the 34,000 students were moving back in for the fall semester. The 1000 strong corps of cadets, a ROTC program, marched by us.