There’s no need to go all the way to the Grand Canyon to see a natural wonder. Right off of Interstate 81 in Rockbridge County, Virginia is the Natural Bridge, a site sacred to the Monacan Indians, and one of the natural wonders of the world in the nineteenth century. It seems impossible to go anywhere in Virginia without following in the footsteps of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, and in this case it’s a little bit of both. Historical records indicate that Thomas Jefferson’s father conducted a survey of the area with a young George Washington. A set of initials carved into one side of the arch, “G.W.” may even be those of George Washington. Years later, Thomas Jefferson bought the property and built a two-room log cabin retreat. Early tourists could still visit his cabin until it was torn down in the 1930’s to make room for the Natural Bridge Hotel.
I was elated to have the entire place to myself during my visit so I sat under the arch and took my time eating lunch. The only sounds I could hear were the trickling water of snow melting off the arch, and the quiet rushing of the James River. It was February, cold, and snow was still on the ground, but I was too excited to care. It’s not often that you get an entire natural wonder to yourself. Over the years I’ve learned that the rewards of off-season travel far outweigh the discomforts. In June I returned to the Natural Bridge, and the experience couldn’t have been more different .There were tour groups on every trail, a shuttle was in service, and the snack shop was smoking with burgers and hot dogs on the grill. Fortunately, I only had to think back to my solitary visit in February to remember quiet sounds of the Natural Bridge.
The Natural Bridge is privately owned and recently went on the market, along with the tourist traps (petting zoo, wax museum, hotel, Monacan village recreation) that have grown up around it. If the site is sold to a private buyer, it could be closed to the public.
Bizarre Landmark Owned By Thomas Jefferson Goes On The Market (huffingtonpost.com)