Wednesday, January 26, 2011

✈Worldwide Wednesdays: The Natural Bridge of Virginia

Where shall we travel to today?....

Natural Bridge, USA
The immensity is startling…the majesty is striking. 20 stories of solid rock, carved by the fingers of nature---Virginia’s Natural Bridge.
Treasured by kings, purchased by patriots, this great stone monument is the looking-glass of history.
Gentle breezes stir and the mammoth archway whispers stories of America’s origins at this sentinel of Shenandoah.

Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County, Virginia is a geological formation in which Cedar Creek (a small tributary of the James River) has carved out a gorge in the mountainous limestone terrain, forming an arch 215 ft (66 m) high with a span of 90 ft (27 m). It consists of horizontal limestone strata, and is the remains of the roof of a cave or tunnel through which the creek once flowed. Natural Bridge has been designated a Virginia Historical Landmark and a National Historical Landmark.

 Some believe George Washington came to the site in 1750 as a young surveyor on behalf of Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. To support claims that Washington surveyed the area, some tour guides claim the initials "G.W." on the wall of the bridge, 23 ft. up, were carved by the future president. Legend also has it that George Washington threw a rock from the bottom of Cedar Creek over the bridge. In 1927, a large stone was found, also engraved "G.W." and bearing a surveyor's cross, which historians accepted as proof that he indeed surveyed the bridge.

Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres (635,000 m²) of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings in 1774. He called it "the most Sublime of nature's works". Jefferson built a two-room log cabin, with one room reserved for guests, beginning its use as a retreat. While President, in 1802, he surveyed the place with his own hands. It has been said that Jefferson was able to throw a stone from the ground below the bridge to the top. Many famous guests stayed here, including John Marshall, James Monroe, Henry Clay, Sam Houston, and Martin Van Buren.

Natural Bridge was one of the wonders of the new world that Europeans visited during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Natural Bridge was a sacred site of the Native American Monacan tribe, who believed it to be the site of a major victory over pursuing Powhatans centuries before the arrival of whites in Virginia.  Vacationing guests from all over the world took day trips from Natural Bridge on horseback or horse drawn carriages to explore the countryside. In 1833, a new owner erected the Forest Inn to accommodate the increasing number of people. The bridge had considerable notoriety during the 19th century. 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..."

Natural Bridge by
Frederic Edwin Church, 1852
pic by Wiki user Tetraktys
 Today, in order to view the bridge from below, a ticket needs to be purchased for 18 U.S. dollars. The top of the bridge can be seen for free from U.S. Highway 11, which runs on top of it. However, fences on either side of the highway block the view of the canyon from the bridge.

Following the trail under the bridge, in addition to seeing it from its less-often-photographed side, the visitor can walk some distance to the end of that trail, beyond which the remnant of the waterfall that helped to form the bridge can be seen.

Source:  Wikipedia

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