COVID-19 UPDATE (May 3, 2021)
TNC’s public preserves in Virginia remain open. We ask all visitors to observe our preserve access guidelines and to follow current health and safety precautions, including guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Thank you for helping us in our efforts to protect our visitors’ health and well-being.
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.
Why TNC 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.