Close up view of small ferns growing out of a clump of earth. The white water of a small waterfall is artfully blurred in the background.
Falls Ridge Preserve boasts a spring-fed travertine waterfall approximately 80 feet in height © Glenna Goldman/TNC

Places We Protect

Falls Ridge Preserve

Virginia

Enjoy upgraded trails and new views of the waterfall.

COVID-19 UPDATE (September 25, 2020)

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), including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others (social distancing).

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.

Get Involved: Preserve Volunteer Program

Virginia's Preserve Volunteer Community Program provides a vital service to help us maintain and monitor our public preserves across the state.

How can you get involved?

  • Community Members—become involved with a preserve without committing time to stewardship work. Receive periodic updates about the preserve and special events.
  • Preserve Stewards—visit Falls Ridge at least 4 times a year to assess trail and preserve conditions and perform basic trail maintenance by removing fallen branches and overgrown vegetation.
  • Preserve Leaders—demonstrated commitment to the preserve and willingness to take on additional responsibilities like managing communication & scheduling, leading workdays and guiding naturalist hikes.

Please contact Jen Dalke, volunteer coordinator, at 434-951-0572 or jdalke@tnc.org to receive further information.

Download the Falls Ridge Preserve Volunteer Program handbook to learn more.

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.

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.

Close up view of a small fern and waterfall.
Falls Ridge Preserve
Hiking trails provide good views of a spring-fed travertine waterfall approximately 80 feet high.

Falls Ridge Preserve Enjoy upgraded trails and new views of the waterfall.