The creation of Natural Tunnel began over a million years ago, in the early glacial period when groundwater bearing carbonic acid percolated through crevices and slowly dissolved surrounding limestone and dolomite bedrock. Then, what is now Stock Creek was probably diverted underground to continue carving the tunnel slowly over many centuries. The walls of the tunnel show evidence of prehistoric life, and many fossils can be found in the creek bed and the tunnel walls.
Daniel Boone was one of the earliest people to see the tunnel, however, no one wrote of it until Lt. Col. Stephen H. Long explored the site in 1831 and published an article in a geology journal in 1832. The areas near the tunnel were mined for saltpeter during the Civil War. In 1890 the South Atlantic and Ohio Railroad arrived and, making use of the natural formation, laid tracks through the tunnel. In 1906 Southern Railway acquired the tracks and created a passenger line, the Natural Tunnel Line, that went through the tunnel. Large coal deposits were discovered in the area shortly thereafter and although they no longer carry passengers, trains continue to this day to carry coal through Natural Tunnel to power plants in the Southeastern United States. Norfolk-Southern and CSX both use this route to carry coal today.
The Commonwealth of Virginia acquired the tunnel and 100 surrounding acres in 1967 from the Natural Tunnel Chasm and Caverns Corporation to establish Natural Tunnel State Park. Approximately 500 acres were later acquired, and the park opened in 1971. Today the park has 850 acres.
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Pictures from Natural Tunnel