5 Natural Wonders of Tazewell County

1. Burke’s Garden
The oval, bowl-like valley looks like an extinct volcano from satellite photographs and on topographic maps but scientists say it actually was formed with underground limestone caverns collapsed. However, locals will be quick to tell you that “The Garden” was made when God placed his hand on Virginia to give it his bthumbprintlessing and his thumb left an imprint that is Burkes Garden.

The mountain valley is the highest in Virginia at around 3,000 feet above sea level and is completely surrounded by Clinch Mountain. It is a National and Virginia Rural Historical District.
As you journey through the valley keep your eyes open for the beautiful barn quilts scattered throughout. The first you will spot as you enter The Garden is the LOVEworks barn quilt reminds visitors that Virginia is for lovers – and we LOVE Burke’s Garden!

You can park your car at the mill dam and bike around the twelve mile loop of flat and rolling hills. Stop for a look at Lost World Ranch where you will see the largest herd of Bactrian Camels in North America along with Appaloosa Llamas. Take a stroll through the cemetery with headstones from the 1700’s at the Central Lutheran Church.

Just up the road is the Parsonage Guest House, a historic and beautiful property that was originally built at the turn of the century as a parsonage for the Central Lutheran Church. It has been fully restored and is opened as a Bed and Breakfast. The facility sleeps eleven or can be rented for smaller groups.

Don’t forget to stop by the General Store (restrooms and wireless service available) and enjoy a lunch of barbecue or a sandwich served on thick slices of home baked sourdough bread. The store is owned and operated by Mattie Schlabach, an Amish resident of the Garden.

Visit Burke’s Garden during the Fall Festival, held the last Saturday in September each year. The farmers, multiple venders, demonstrators and entertainers set up booths.

If you drive up the forest service road you can find access to the Appalachian Trail. Hike to the Chestnut Ridge Shelter and take time to stop at the scenic overlooks with dramatic views of Burkes Garden.

2. Fourteen feet coal seam outcropping in Pocahontas
A fourteen foot seam of coal outcropping was responsible for the coal boom of the 1880’s in Southwest Virginia and that outcropping was located in Pocahontas. The outcropping was located just East of the Pocahontas Cemetery and was owned by a blacksmith who collected the coal to use in his business. Eventually the land changed hands and the first mine was opened and remained open until October 1955. During that time 44,000,000 tons of coal were produced.poca-mine

Visit Pocahontas today and see a few of the buildings that are left from the days when coal was king. Explore the Exhibition Mine and Museum, a National Historic Landmark. The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy have partnered with the mine in an effort to preserve some of the history of coal mining in Southwest Virginia. The museum features tours from retired coal miners who will lead you into the real mine that provided heat for homes across the United States and was the preferred fuel for the United States Navy.

Your visit will not be complete without a stop at the Pocahontas Cemetery. A Virginia Historic site, the cemetery features graves that are more than 130 years old and a mass grave for the 114 coal miners killed in the mine explosion in Pocahontas on March 13, 1884. Each year the town holds a candlelight ceremony at the cemetery to remember those miners and all miners who have lost their lives so that Americans could be warm and have lights.

Another site that makes a trip to Pocahontas worthwhile is St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church which has ten life-sized murals on the ceilings and walls of the church.

3. Sleeping George Washington in Tazewell
As you drive from Bluefield to Tazewell on US 19/460 enjoy the beauty of the mountains and as you enjoy the views you may catch site of what residents call the “Sleeping George Washington.” The father of our country appears to have fallen asleep while gazing at the night stars or perhaps he dozed off while imagining the different shapes he could see in the clouds.gw

Once in Tazewell, the county seat and the oldest town in the county; you can walk on beautiful tree-lined streets and enjoy the many historic homes and businesses, some that were built as early as 1826. The County Library on Main Street contains an excellent genealogy room called “Virginia Room – Local History Center.”
North Tazewell was once a separate town but is now an extension of the Town of Tazewell. There you will find the historic railroad station which is being renovated/restored. The Clinch River headwaters in North Tazewell as a thoroughly beautiful river with some excellent fishing spots.

You may enjoy lunch at Fisher and Co., Your Grate Escape, or the Italian Village.

Lincolnshire Park is a great place for a walk or to let the kids play in KIDZONE, the unique playground. Lincolnshire Lake has a trail that is well maintained that winds its way around the beautiful 21 acre lake. The trail is about a mile and a half in length. There are boat launching facilities, four tennis courts, basketball court, sand volleyball court, three large picnic shelters, two softball fields and a Junior Olympic size pool.

4. The Cove
In 1994 the movie “Lassie, Best Friends are Forever” was filmed in The Cove and Thistle Cove Farm is featured on the video cover. This sparsely populated farming community is one of the last remaining valleys expressly devoted to agriculture. The land is used primarily to graze cattle, sheep and horses, with support crops of alfalfa, corn and other grains. Grassland and open field birds are abundant with large flocks of red-winged blackbird, eastern meadowlark, eastern bluebird, barn swallow and American goldfinch in residence. Look for mockingbird and turkey vulture. American kestrel, bald eagles, blue heron and wild turkey make their home here. The open grasslands are also excellent habitat for grasshopper sparrow during the breeding season and dickcissel bird in summer. The scenic drive through the area offers wildlife viewing opportunities year-round. Black bear, white-tailed deer, and red fox are among the valley’s wildlife. In winter, look for patrolling northern harrier and short-eared owl.

One section of the Cove is Maiden Springs. Now on DSC_5986the historic registry for the historic home and farm complex that sits there it was once the site of Maiden Springs Fort during Lord Dunmore’s War against hostile Indian tribes in 1774. It was also known as Reece Bowen’s Fort. Today the main house consists of a large two-story, five-bay, frame, central-passage-plan dwelling with an earlier frame dwelling incorporated as an ell. Also on the private property is a meat house, slave house, summer kitchen, horse barn, the stock barn, the hen house, the granary/corn crib, the cemetery and the schoolhouse. The property also is the site of the source of Maiden Spring, with the water coming from the side of the mountain. During the Civil War, Confederate Army troops camped on the Maiden Spring Farm.

The Highland Bull Pub is found by heading northwest of the Cove on highway 609. This tiny restaurant was once the home of “Wardell Hams” and now boasts country ham sandwiches and over one hundred varieties of beer, with an interior design based on funny signs, dollar bills and tall tales. The owner also raises Scotch Highland cattle and sells beef from the store. If you’re in the market for a rug, ask about the long haired Scotch Highland cattle rug; it makes a one-of-a-kind gift! On a pretty day, enjoy your meal on the creek side porch. If you choose to dine inside you will find that much of the décor came directly from the filming of the Lassie movie.

The pub also sits directly on the Heart of Appalachia Bike Route and is one of the most unique bar/dining experiences in Southwest Virginia.

5. Clinch River at Cedar Bluff
Take a little break, kick off your shoes and dangle your feet into the cool water of the Clinch River at the McGuire Mill Park in Cedar Bluff – ruins of an old grist mill site (located on Old Mill Road in the town of Cedar Bluff). Better yet, go wading and maybe you’ll discover a crawdad or a mudpuppy. This is the perfect spot to put in a kayak and explore a little more! Wildlife on the Clinch is varied. Birders could see hawks, owls, osprey, kingfishers, ducks, Canadanian Geese and Blue Herons. Animal lovers could see beaver, deer, muskrat and otter. Plant enthusiasts will see a variety of trees (mostly hardwoods withfalls a sprinkle of cedar and pine). The shore line also offers a variety of wildflowers. The Clinch River is also the most biologically diverse river in North America. (photo to right is the Taylor Mill on Rt 637, Cochran Hollow Rd near Tazewell)

The river is the home to three endangered species of Mussel. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ has established a freshwater mussel   propagation program and to date thousands of hatchery-reared juvenile mussels of 13 species have been released in the Clinch River. These include three species on the federally endangered list the purple bean, the tan riffle shell and the rough rabbits foot. The Tan Riffle Shell Mussel’s only natural habitat is this small portion of the Clinch.

The Cedar Bluff Overlook Park and Trail provides a great opportunity to both observe and interact with a very unique environment. The trail follows a Virginia Department of Transportation constructed road cut into the side of the mountain. Called “The Cuts” by locals, you will find benches en-route to an observation deck at the summit which is 760 feet above the beginning of the trail. The overlook’s elevation is 2475 feet above sea level. The view  is phenomenal, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing color. You will have not only a view of the bluffs covered with cedar trees, that gave the town its name, but a view of the town. Great views are just a small part of what this trail provides. Along the way to the summit you will find interpretive signs. These signs showcase The Clinch River, the 1998 Chemical Spill, the Geology of the Route 460 Road Cut and the adjoining Nature Conservancy Property. The park has picnic shelters, a playground and bathrooms. The trail and park close one hour before dark.

While in Cedar Bluff you can see the majestic Governor George Peery home and walk around the historic district.

The second Saturday of September the town holds one of the largest and most successful festivals in the region. It features food, arts and crafts, music along with buggy rides.