Open to the Public
View preserve guidelines and download a map of Falls Ridge. View All
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.
Montgomery County, southeast of Blacksburg
View preserve guidelines. Please note: dogs are not allowed at any Conservancy preserve.
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Open daily, dawn to dusk
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.
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.
Download a trail map of Falls Ridge Preserve (PDF)
While black bear populations are healthy in the western part of the state, you are unlikely to encounter a bear while visiting one of our preserves. More often than not, a wild bear will detect you first and flee from the area. However, black bears that have become accustomed to humans and their foods may not run away. In these cases, certain precautions are offered for consideration (source: USFS):
- Do not run. Remain calm, continue facing the bear and slowly back away.
- Keep children and pets close at hand.
- Make lots of noise. Yell, rattle pots and pans, whistle and break sticks.
- Travel in groups.
- Stand upright. Do not kneel or bend over. Wave arms, jackets or other materials.
- Never approach or corner a bear.
- Never offer food to a bear.
- Be aware of the presence of cubs and never come between a bear and its cubs.
- Fight back aggressively if a bear attacks you.
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.
- Take the Route 603 exit off of Route 460. Follow the rest of the directions above.
- 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.