Have you ever been driving down I-77 in southern Virginia and saw the sign for Shot Tower Historic State Park and wondered what it was for? Well, we did and decided to take a detour off exit 24 to see what was there. The park is about 2 miles north on Route 52 near Austinville, Virginia. Sitting on this 10 acre state park is a "Shot Tower". The 75 foot tall tower was built in 1807 by Thomas Jackson. Below the tower is a 75 foot shaft that had an entrance at the river level. Hot lead, from the local lead mine, was poured from a large kettle through sieves to a kettle of water 150 feet below to make perfectly round shotgun shot. It was the first factory to produce shot in America and is 1 of only 3 remaining in the United States.
The tower was opened to the public by the Leads Mines Ruritan Club in 1968 after extensive renovations. While the access tunnel is no longer open, the Norfolk and Western Railroad Company collapsed the tunnel for safety reasons, the tower is occasionally open on weekends in the summer for tours. The Shot Tower Historical Park is also a good parking area for accessing the nearby New River Trail.