The Shot Tower Historical State Park sits on the New River in Austinville, Virginia. The 215-year-old tower was conceived by Thomas Jackson, a local miner and business owner. It took seven years to complete the 75-foot high tower of limestone, quarried from the Austinville mine about a mile away. Inside the tower is a 75-foot-deep shaft, that reaches river level.
The tower was used to mold “shot,” which was sold to settlers as ammunition. This was done by pouring molten lead from the top of the tower through sieves of varying sizes, like a spaghetti strainer. Once it went through the strainer, it created little balls of lead, or shot that would fall 150 feet into a kettle of water at the bottom. The lead cooled on the way down and the water acted as a cushion, so the shot retained its round shape. The kettle was accessible through a tunnel near the river, which was where it was loaded onto boats to be sold at the market.
Visitors can go all the way up to the top using the interior winding steps and look all the way down to the very bottom of the tower where the kettle of water would have been. There are also very beautiful views of the surrounding area including the New River itself.
Know Before You Go
From I-77, take exit 24 and go north on Route 52 for two miles. Admission to the tower is free, but you do pay for parking.