Skip to main content

Small Towns of Virginia Series - Buchanan


Situated along the banks of the James River in Botetourt County, Buchanan is considered "The Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley."  Home to roughly 1,200 residents, Buchanan is one of several small towns along US 11 throughout the valley.

The town was established in 1811 and incorporated in 1832.  It is named after Colonel John Buchanan. Across the James, another community was founded, Pattonsburg. Pattonsburg was named after one of Buchanan's contemporaries, Colonel James Patton.

Pattonsburg was settled first in 1788.  A century later, the two communities merged into the current-day town of Buchanan.

The Buchanan Swing Bridge.

Connecting the two communities over the James has always been a priority.  First connected by a toll covered bridge in 1851, Buchanan and the former Pattonsburg are now served by two bridges - a standard concrete highway bridge built in 1938 carrying US 11 and a unique pedestrian swing bridge.

The Buchanan Swing Bridge Park - featuring the Buchanan Swing Bridge and the Main Street Bridge carrying US 11.

The Buchanan Swing Bridge, which also dates to 1938, is a beloved local landmark.  The pedestrian walkway was constructed at the request of Buchanan's mayor, C.W. Blount, to maintain pedestrian access to the Pattonsburg side of the James.  

The bridge uses the piers of the 1851 covered bridge - which burned down during the Civil War -  and the footer of a former iron bridge that crossed the James from 1897 to 1938.  Today, the bridge is a popular stop with area visitors and features a small park on the south bank of the James.

Kayak launch along the James River in Buchanan.

Buchanan is home to many recreational opportunities.  The James River is popular tubing, kayaking, and fishing location.  The town's proximity to the Appalachian Trail - four miles to the east - and Blue Ridge Parkway make it a popular destination for hiking and exploring nearby waterfalls.

Buchanan boasts that visitors do not need to drive to Washington, DC every spring to see the Cherry Blossoms.  The colorful blossoms boom in the area in late March and early April.  Most of the trees are located in the center of town.

All photos taken by post author - May 2023.

Sources & Links:

How To Get There:


Site Navigation:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Paper Highways: The Unbuilt New Orleans Bypass (Proposed I-410)

  There are many examples around the United States of proposed freeway corridors in urban areas that never saw the light of day for one reason or another. They all fall somewhere in between the little-known and the infamous and from the mundane to the spectacular. One of the more obscure and interesting examples of such a project is the short-lived idea to construct a southern beltway for the New Orleans metropolitan area in the 1960s and 70s. Greater New Orleans and its surrounding area grew rapidly in the years after World War II, as suburban sprawl encroached on the historically rural downriver parishes around the city. In response to the development of the region’s Westbank and the emergence of communities in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes as viable suburban communities during this period, regional planners began to consider concepts for new infrastructure projects to serve this growing population.  The idea for a circular freeway around the southern perimeter of t

Hernando de Soto Bridge (Memphis, TN)

The newest of the bridges that span the lower Mississippi River at Memphis, the Hernando de Soto Bridge was completed in 1973 and carries Interstate 40 between downtown Memphis and West Memphis, AR. The bridge’s signature M-shaped superstructure makes it an instantly recognizable landmark in the city and one of the most visually unique bridges on the Mississippi River. As early as 1953, Memphis city planners recommended the construction of a second highway bridge across the Mississippi River to connect the city with West Memphis, AR. The Memphis & Arkansas Bridge had been completed only four years earlier a couple miles downriver from downtown, however it was expected that long-term growth in the metro area would warrant the construction of an additional bridge, the fourth crossing of the Mississippi River to be built at Memphis, in the not-too-distant future. Unlike the previous three Mississippi River bridges to be built the city, the location chosen for this bridge was about two

Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (Memphis, TN)

  Like the expansion of the railroads the previous century, the modernization of the country’s highway infrastructure in the early and mid 20th Century required the construction of new landmark bridges along the lower Mississippi River (and nation-wide for that matter) that would facilitate the expected growth in overall traffic demand in ensuing decades. While this new movement had been anticipated to some extent in the Memphis area with the design of the Harahan Bridge, neither it nor its neighbor the older Frisco Bridge were capable of accommodating the sharp rise in the popularity and demand of the automobile as a mode of cross-river transportation during the Great Depression. As was the case 30 years prior, the solution in the 1940s was to construct a new bridge in the same general location as its predecessors, only this time the bridge would be the first built exclusively for vehicle traffic. This bridge, the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge, was completed in 1949 and was the third