Natural Tunnel State Park
1420 Natural Tunnel Pkwy
Duffield, VA, 24244
Natural Tunnel State Park is a Virginia state park,
centered around the Natural Tunnel, a massive naturally formed cave
that is so large it is used as a railroad tunnel. It is located in the
Appalachian Mountains near Duffield in Scott County, Virginia.
The Natural tunnel, which is up to 200 feet wide
and 80 feet high, began to form more than a million years ago when
groundwater bearing carbonic acid percolated through crevices and
slowly dissolved limestone and dolomite bedrock. A small river, which
is now called Stock Creek, was diverted underground and it continued
to erode the tunnel over many millennia.
The walls of the tunnel show evidence of
prehistoric life. Many fossils have been found in the creek bed and in
the tunnel walls.
The tunnel passes through Purchase Ridge, which is
made of the Ordovician Chepultepec Limestone and is near the axis of
the Purchase Ridge syncline. It lies between the Clinchport Thrust
Fault and the Hunter Valley Thrust Fault, on the Hunter Valley Thrust
Sheet. The tunnel itself began its formation in the Pleistocene
Although Natural Tunnel State Park was created in
1967 and opened to the public in 1971, the natural tunnel has been a
Virginian tourist attraction for more than a century; Daniel Boone is
believed to have been the first European to see it in the 18th
century. The 41st United States Secretary of State William Jennings
Bryan dubbed it the "Eighth Wonder of the World".
A railroad was constructed through the natural
tunnel in 1893. The first train, operated by the Virginia &
Southwestern Railway Company, passed through the following year. In
1899, the Natural tunnel was purchased by the Tennessee & Carolina &
Iron and Steel Company. The railway originally carried passenger
trains; today, the line is still open but now run by Norfolk Southern
and CSX and is only used to transport coal.
American Indian Heritage
It is known that a Cherokee maiden and a Shawnee
brave who had been forbidden to marry by their respective tribes,
jumped to their deaths from the highest pinnacle above the Natural
Tunnel. The place is now known as Lover's Leap.
There is a 1,600 feet boardwalk that allows
disabled visitors to gain access to the natural tunnel.
Park visitors can also camp, swim, picnic and hike.
There is a visitors center and naturally formed amphitheaters that are
up to 600 feet high.