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Virginia

Falls Ridge Preserve




Open to the Public

Yes

Plan Your Visit

View preserve guidelines and download a map of Falls Ridge. View All

Get Directions
Why You Should Visit

Part of a steep, rugged ridge that rises from the valley of the North Fork of the Roanoke River, Falls Ridge Preserve boasts a spring-fed travertine waterfall approximately 80 feet in height.
Salem Fault runs through the preserve, dividing it into two different rock types-Precambrian limestone and shale/sandstone. The corresponding difference in soil types generates a diversity of vegetation, particularly wildflowers and smaller flora.

The rocks in the travertine falls watershed grew steadily, as minerals and lime dissolved in the water precipitate upon them. Over thousands of years, the build-up of calcium carbonate steepened the stream's gradient and slowly created both the waterfall and one of the largest-known exposed travertine deposits. Large sinkholes on part of the land also indicate the existence of underlying caverns which have never been explored.

Location

Montgomery County, southeast of Blacksburg

View preserve guidelines. Please note: dogs are not allowed at any Conservancy preserve.

Visit us on Facebook to see more photos of Falls Ridge.

Hours

Open daily, dawn to dusk

Size

655 acres

Conditions

Easy hiking trails. Please stay on the trails to avoid harming sensitive habitat. Maps are available at the visitor kiosk. There are no bathrooms.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

In 1968, Mr. William P. Bradley, a photographer and publicist, bought the Falls Ridge Preserve area from a local family. Mr. Bradley used the property as a retirement home, eventually deeded Falls Ridge to the Conservancy in 1974.

A large Indian settlement was located upstream of Falls Ridge Preserve on the North Fork of the Roanoke River, but the only direct evidence of Indian activity has been the discovery of a few white flint arrowheads. In 1823, the Governor of Virginia granted to the Birchfield family 700 acres of land, encompassing part of the present day preserve. A local family, the Dudleys, later acquired the land and used it not only for farming but also to operate several enterprises: a wool carding mill, general store, post office, lumber milk gram mill and a livery. In 1939, a kiln to produce burnt lime was installed at the falls by Harry Dudley. Calcium carbonate cliffs (travertine) deposited by the stream were blasted loose, crushed and carted by mule to the top of the kiln. Traces of this operation can be seen near the falls.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

The Conservancy has worked to upgrade the trails, providing good views of the waterfall while protecting nearby habitat from erosion. Rare plant species are being monitored.

Photos

View slideshow

Enjoy Falls Ridge's natural waterfalls

Video

View Preserve Guidelines

What to See: Animals

Wildlife flourishes here, including deer, raccoon, opossum, skunk, turkey, grouse, wildcats, ravens, great-horned owls, redtailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks and pileated woodpeckers. A very rare snail, the wild cherrystone snail, has also been found here.

What to See: Plants

Some of the plant species found here are very rare, such as the Allegheny plum and Goldenseal, and at least one species is endemic to Virginia: the Addison's Leatherflower. The woodlands primarily contain species common to an eastern deciduous forest. The uplands mostly consist of oak and hickory trees, with scattered ash, white pine, Virginia pine and pitch pine. In the ravines and hollows are tulip, poplar and hemlock. In the lowlands there is an abundance of American hornbeam. Sycamores are found near the streams.

Trail Map

Download a trail map of Falls Ridge Preserve (PDF)

Directions

From the east (DC or Richmond):

  • Take I-66 or I-64 west to I-81.
  • Take I-81 south to the Roanoke area.
  • Exit I-81 at exit #128, the Ironto & Route 603 exit (about nine miles south of Salem and 10 miles north of Christiansburg). 
  • Turn right (west) onto Route 603 (North Fork Road). Follow winding Route 603 for seven miles until you see a red private bridge on the left.
  • Turn left onto Falls Ridge Road; cross the bridge and railroad tracks.
  • Immediately across the tracks, turn left onto a gravel road that follows the tracks briefly, then curves to the right and fords a small stream.
  • Just past the stream there is a fork. Bear left and park on the side of the road near the preserve entrance sign. (Do NOT go to the right up the hill!). The trails start across the open field.

From Blacksburg:

  • Take the Route 603 exit off of Route 460. Follow the rest of the directions above.

From Christiansburg:

  • Route 641 leads to Route 603. (Coming from this direction, Falls Ridge Road will be on your right.) Follow the rest of the directions above.

 

Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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