I was very surprised to find an information put by this dead tree in my picture: Before dying in 1980, this more than 1600 year old specimen of the Arbor Vitae tree was the largest known in the world. It's diameter measures 56 inches (142 cm). Depending on climatic conditions that determine it's growth rate, the arbor vitae increases in diameter about one inch (2.54 cm) every thirty years. Native Americans use the foliage as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvey.
Arbor Vita is common name for Thuja, a genus of coniferous trees in the Cupressaceae (cypress family). There are five species in the genus, two native to North America and three from Eastern Asia. Arbor Vita means "tree of life" in Latin and that name originates from the evergreen foliage of thujas. Some people use sometimes the incorrect name "cedar" while thujas are not cedars.
Cedar Creek Nature Trail is flat and very easy. 1500 yards long pathway goes along Cedar Creek on the bottom of a rocky gorge. Well, due to floods the trail is placed above the bottom. It ends at the Lace Waterfalls.
It was a very relaxing walk with stops at attractions described in seperate tips as well as some additional small things on the way. Well, I've seen a few squirrels but they didn't want to pose to my pictures. Add multicoloured trees in October, but not that impressive as I saw in Great Smokey National Park two days later. On the trail passing by other visitors I learned how to pronaunce "HI", probably in southern style. Well, there are many ways. Before my southern trip I used to say HELLO. It sounds more formal and sophisticated, right? Slowly I switched to HI and liked it a lot :-). Hi!
Monacan Indian Village is the most interesting attraction along Cedar Creek Nature Trail in my opinion. Despite the information that they close at 5 pm the village was open. The area is re-constructed as it looked at 1700' and surrounded by a palisade.
I've seen first of all Monacan traditional hut which looks at first site similar to beehives of some tribes in Subsaharan Africa. They also built special huts covered with clay to hold in the steam. The tribes used steam to help cure some kinds of sickness. They would heat coals very hot and then pour water on the coals to make steam. Well, I would call it an Indian sauna.
I've got to know that Monacans - during the time of arrival the first Europeans to Jamestown in 1607 - controlled the area of the upper waters of the James River at Richmond in Central Virginia as well as areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley. I've got to know that there are approximately 1,400 members of the tribe in Virginia and small satellite groups in West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio. I've told my guide that it's a very low number. He has added that even today there is no conclusive evidence connecting the historical Monacan tribe with the people who today claim to be their descendants and that these people speak English. They have their powwows (traditional gathering, a specific type of event held by Native Americans) in Virginia.
The Saltpetre Cave on Cedar Creek Nature Trail was just a hole or large rock crevice. It's not a very attractive place but the wooden bridge over the Cedar Creek leading to the cave and the setting around look quite pretty.
The information given by the cave says that during the war of 1812 and the Civil War (1861-1865), earth from the Saltpetre Cave was mined for the bird and bat droppings that it contained, to make gunpowder. The earth was saturated with cold water and left in hoppers for a day or two. Once boiled in iron kettles, the mixture of earth and water, called "soak", was filtered through wood ashes, producing a clear solution named nitrate of potassium. Boiled for a second time, the liquid was converted into crystallized salts or "saltpetre", and used to make gunpowder.
I probably wouldn't stop on Cedar Creek Nature Trail and wouldn't pay any attention to this hole in a rock with water on the ground in my picture if I hadn't seen the information table on Lost River which said that about 1812, workmen from the Saltpetre Cave heard the waters of the Lost River, and blasted the opening to it at this place. A water main was attached to transport water to the hoppers and kettles used to extraxt the nitrate from the cave.
Legend has it that, in later years, several unsuccessful attempts were made to locate the underground channels of the Lost River. Colored dyes and flotation devices of all types have failed to determine the source and final destination of this mysterious subterranean river.
The Cedar Creek Nature Trails ends with the Lace Waterfalls. Well, after reading a lot of advertisements on these waterfalls I was a bit dissapointed. They didn't look bad but they were small, hundreds times lower than those I was lucky to see in Yosemite National Park in California a year before.
The information given by the waterfalls states that the headwaters of Cedar Creek originate from high on the south end of the first ridge of the Alleghany Mountains, 180 miles away. At this place Cedar Creek plunges 50 feet to the creckbed. After flowing under the Natiral Bridge, it continues toward the southeast and enters the James River about a mile away. I saw James River at the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City a few days before and the river was the largest one I ever saw till I saw the Mississippi River.
When I finally went down to the bottom of the Cedar Creek Gorge I saw first the stone building of Summerhouse Cafe and beautiful little lake surrounded by trees in fall colours. As the water was crystal clear I could easily sea some fish.
At this pretty point the Cedar Creek Trail begins. It led me to the next attractions:
- Natural Bridge (150 yds)
- Monacan Indian Village (600 yds)
- Salpetre Mines (705 yds)
- Lost River (950 yds)
- Lace Waterfalls (1500 yds) where the trail ends.
Tours of the caverns leave every half hour. They have a sign that says they limit the tours to 25 people but we had over 45 on our tour. It wasn't bad, though, because the people were well behaved. But it was really too many because it took so long to wait for all of those people to get into each "room" before the guide could tell us about it. Our guide was very good and had a loud voice so all could hear her. It was well lighted and the formations here were quite beautiful. At one point she cut off the lights to show us what complete darkness really is like. The temperature is 54 degrees year round which felt good in July. This cavern is the deepest in the eastern United States and is quite impressive. The tour takes about 45 minutes.
Anna enjoyed the Monacan Village, which is part of the Natural Bridge tourist complex. It is a recreated Indian village that features Indian dwellings and demonstrations of local crafts, such as basket weaving and beading. The Monacans are one of the surviving Indian tribes in Virginia, and still live in the area.
The lost river is a small underground river near Natural Bridge that was discovered the 1800s when workers mining saltpeter in a cave heard the sound of rushing water nearby. Over the years, there have been a number of attempts to figure out where the river goes, but none have been successful.
There are natural bridges in various places in the world, but they have been known to collapse. The large natural bridge in Aruba that collapsed recently is the most notable one. Under the circumstances, I think it is short sighted to run a highway across the top of this one.
Natural Bridge Only
Includes admission to Natural Bridge, Cedar Creek Nature Trail and Monacan Village, Wax & Toy Museums and Drama of Creation Show (dusk) $18 $10
Bat guano was used before and during the Civil War to make salt peter which was used to make gunpowder.
15 Apple Dore Lane
Good for: Solo
185 Orchard Vale Way, Natural Bridge, Virginia, 24578, United States
Good for: Couples
154 Herring Hall Road, Natural Bridge, Virginia, 24578, United States
Good for: Couples