Natural Bridge

Thomas Jefferson:

"It is impossible for the emotions arising from the sublime to be felt beyond what they are here... The rapture of the spectator is really indescribable."

Natural Bridge

"The Natural Bridge, the most sublime of Nature's works, . . . is on the ascent of a great hill, which seems to have been cloven through its length by some great convulsion. The fissure, just at the bridge, is by some admeasurements, 270 feet deep, by others only 205. It is about 45 feet wide at the bottom and 90 feet at the top; this of course determines the length of the bridge, and its height from the water. Its breadth in the middle is about sixty feet, but more at the ends, and the thickness of the mass, at the summit of the arch, about forty feet. A part of this thickness is constituted by a coat of earth, which gives growth to many large trees. The residue, with the hill on both sides, is one solid rock of lime-stone. The arch approaches the Semi-elliptical form; but the larger axis of the ellipsis, which would be the cord of the arch, is many times longer than the transverse. Though the sides of the bridge are provided in some parts with a parapet of fixed rocks, yet few men have resolution to walk to them and look over into the abyss.

NAtural BridgeYou involuntarily fall on your hands and feet, creep to the parapet and peep over it. Looking down from this height about a minute gave me a violent headache. If the view from the top be painful and intolerable, that from below is delightful in an equal extreme. It is impossible for the emotions, arising from the sublime, to be felt beyond what they are here: so beautiful an arch, so elevated, so light, and springing, as it were, up to heaven. The rapture of the Spectator is really indescribable! The fissure continuing narrow, deep, and straight, for a considerable distance above and below the bridge, opens a short but very pleasing view of the North mountain on one side and the Blue Ridge on the other, at the distance each of them of about five miles. The bridge is in the county of Rockbridge, to which it has given name, and affords a public and commodious passage over a valley which cannot be crossed elsewhere for a considerable distance. The stream passing under it is called Cedar creek. It is a water of James' river, and sufficient in the driest seasons to turn a grist-mill, thought its fountain is not more than two miles above."

American Environmental History

Thomas Jefferson, “The Natural Bridge,” from Notes on Virginia (1784-85). The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, eds. Adrienne Koch and William Peden (NY: Modern Library, 1944).