Rockbridge County is located in the historic and scenic Shenandoah Valley in west-central Virginia. Lexington, the county seat, is an important educational, retail, commercial, and governmental center. Buena Vista, situated 6 miles east of Lexington and adjacent to the Maury River, is the industrial and manufacturing nucleus of the area.
Rockbridge County is bounded on the west by the lower elevations of the Allegheny Mountains and on the east by the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is surrounded by the counties of Augusta, Nelson, Amherst, Bedford, Botetourt, Alleghany, and Bath, and lies at the headwaters of the James and Maury rivers.
Rockbridge County, which is served by interstates 81 and 64, is approximately 50 miles north of Roanoke; 135 miles west of Richmond; 180 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.; 200 miles northwest of the Port of Hampton Roads; and 150 miles north of Greensboro, North Carolina. Rockbridge County is approximately midway between New York City and Atlanta.
Rockbridge County was named for the distinctive geological landmark, Natural Bridge, located in the southern portion of the County. Created in 1778 from portions of Augusta and Botetourt counties, Rockbridge County has been the home of military strategists Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee, inventor Cyrus McCormick, and pioneer Sam Houston.
Today, Rockbridge County encompasses 607 square miles of diverse, rolling terrain. Within its borders are two independent cities, Lexington and Buena Vista and two incorporated towns, Glasgow and Goshen.
The Rockbridge County-Buena Vista-Lexington area lies primarily within the Valley and Ridge Physiographic Province which is characterized by gently rolling and hilly valleys, as well as gradual mountain slopes. The extreme eastern edge of the County is within the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province which is distinguished by mountain peaks.
Elevations range from 800 to 1,800 feet above sea level in the valley. The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains have many peaks that exceed 3,000 feet above sea level. The lowest point in the County is near the Town of Glasgow, south of the confluence of the James and Maury rivers. The elevation at this location is 720 feet. The highest point in the County is found on Thunder Ridge on the crest of the Blue Ridge.
Both the James and Maury rivers and other streams in Rockbridge County are subject to moderate to severe flooding during periods of heavy rains or rapid thawing. Soils in the valley range from carbonate and shale soils to alluvial soils along the rivers and streams. Colluvial soils derived from the weathering of sandstone and shale are found in the foothills paralleling the valley. The Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains are covered with shallow, rocky, excessively drained soils. The predominant geological structure underlying the Rockbridge County area is a complex formation of limestone, calcareous shale, and dolomite, with smaller amounts of sandstone and conglomerate also present.