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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.

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