Burkes Garden, Virginia


Lost World Ranch is located in Burkes Garden, Virginia. Burkes Garden is the highest valley in Virginia with an elevation of 3079 feet. It is ten miles long and four and a half miles wide, occupying 21,000 acres, and except for a gap at the northwest corner through which Wolf Creek exits, it is completely encircled by Garden Mountain which is up to 4700 feet high. According to the accepted geological theory, the valley was formed when a mountain peak about 6000 feet high produced by the uplifting of the land after the final retreat of the sea at the close of the Paleozoic geologic period, collapsed and subsequently eroded, leaving a rolling valley floor within a residual rim of resistant sandstone. The valley is drained by Wolf Creek, a small river which is a tributary of the New River (designated one of the original ten American Heritage Rivers by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and by several large springs that feed into the river. The Appalachian Trail runs along the crest of Garden Mountain to the south. The Garden is serviced by Virginia's smallest private telephone company.


Burkes Garden is Virginia's largest Rural Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic places (1986) and on the Virginia Landmark Register (1985). Because of its unique topography it has over the years received a variety of appellations including, "Garden of Eden", "God's Thumbprint" and "Garden Spot of the World."


The legend is that Burkes Garden was named in joking reference to James Burke, a member of a 1748 surveying party. Burke is said to have discovered the valley when tracking an elk that he had wounded while hunting in the area. Burke's surveying party subsequently camped in the Garden, and allegedly, to avoid Indian discovery, Burke buried their refuse which included some potato peelings. When Burke and the surveying party returned to the valley about one year later to complete their survey the old campsite was reportedly covered with a luxuriant crop of potatoes, hence the name Burkes Garden.


Burke returned to Burkes Garden in 1753 as a settler. He built a cabin in the western part of the valley and lived there with his family until 1756 when he was driven out by the threat of attacks by the Shawnee Indians.


The natural barrier of the encircling mountain prevented permanent settlement of the Garden for about 60 years after its discovery. Up until recently Burkes Garden contained large dairy and beef farms many of 1000 acres and more. The land was very rarely sold, instead being continually transferred to succeeding generations within families. Currently the Garden is in a state of transition; several of the large land holdings have been sold and divided into smaller parcels. The post office was closed in 2010 and the General Store, the only commercial establishment in the Garden was closed in December of 2012 but re-opened in April of 2013 under the management of an Amish family that is a recent immigrant to Burkes Garden. There is a fledging effort underway to develop the Garden's potential for tourism. The current population is about 300.


Although Burke's Garden has no zoning restrictions development has not yet spoiled its unique beauty largely because the only year round access over the surrounding mountain is by a paved two lane road that is characterized by many sharp curves and switch backs (52 curves in the 5 mile route) that mirror the topography. Welcome recent additions to the Burkes Garden population of these are three Amish families; the General Store is being managed by one of these families.


The photos in the gallery are an attempt to capture the unique beauty of Burkes Garden.