The Bridge of Words: Encounters with Virginia’s Natural Bridge

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The Bridge of Words: Encounters with Virginia’s Natural Bridge

by Daniel J. Philippon
Southern Cultures, Vol. 6, No. 4: Winter 2000

"Ever since Thomas Jefferson proclaimed the Natural Bridge to be 'the most sublime of nature's works,' visitors have been flocking to this limestone arch."

Ever since Thomas Jefferson proclaimed the Natural Bridge to be “the most sublime of Nature’s works,” visitors have been flocking to this limestone arch, located between what are now the cities of Staunton and Roanoke in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Along with the Peaks of Otter, the Lurray Caverns, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Shenandoah National Park, the Natural Bridge remains one of the region’s most frequented destinations and continues to be recognized as one of “the seven natural wonders of the world.” Although I once lived not too far from the bridge, I had resisted visiting it until recently for precisely these reasons, concerned that its status as an American icon would not only collapse under the weight of its current commercialization, but also prevent me from experiencing it afresh. Caught in this contradiction, I finally decided to visit the bridge one cold, recent afternoon and test its strength for myself.