Buckingham’s Willis Mountain.

While driving through Buckingham County yesterday, up and down the hills of the Piedmont, I was surprised to see a prominence to the south of Dillwyn. The size of a small mountain, it’s oddly-shaped, in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It turns out to be an interesting spot. Willis Mountain is made entirely out of kyanite-bearing quartize, rising 560 feet above the surrounding area. Kyanite is strong, and so as the surrounding land has eroded, the prominence has remained. Or, at least, it used to remain. It’s now a kyanite mine, and much of the mountain has been mined away. (Kyanite doesn’t melt until the fantastically high temperature of 3,300°F, making it useful in manufacturing products that need to tolerate high temperatures.) A Northern Virginia Community College geology class took a field trip last fall, and produced an interesting report on the mining operation.

If I hadn’t been sick for the past few days, I would have made a proper day of it and headed over to Cumberland, to contribute to my Commonwealth Quest list. It’s just as well, though—when I finally make it I intend to make a proper trip of it, complete with a tour by Mark Brooks.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

6 replies on “Buckingham’s Willis Mountain.”

  1. Of course, you and Amber are welcome as soon as all four of our schedules permit.

    Willis Mountain in Buckingham is a great example for anyone who has never seen what it looks like to remove a mountaintop, or an entire mountain in this case.

    The difference is, this is slow motion; when the coal producers do it, it’s fairly quick.

    C’mon, and cross Cumberland off that list!

  2. Fantastic story. I heard about this extremely rare stone that resist being heated up so much so that it is very much used by NASA in bring in the space-shuttles through the atmosphere which heats it up and this stone has been used to keep it’s bottom cool during it’s landing stages. Nice that you covered it in your blog.

  3. Placing the descriptor Monadnock in that wiki entry would provide the sort of context that provided you with a WTF road-trip moment. Plus, its a really cool word.

  4. Jefferson used Willis Mountain as the sighting line for his “Monticello Meridian” in his quest to establish better methods of determining longitude in a time when maps and locations were far more difficult to come by than now. He’d be equally appalled and amazed that Willis Mountain has helped get us into space, I suspect.

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