GATE CITY — If you asked Scott County Tourism Director Pam Cox which tourist spot she gets the most calls for, she wouldn’t skip a beat — it would undoubtedly be the county’s infamous Devil’s Bath .
“It’s top of the list,” Cox told The Times News. “He could use his own office.”
Cox has received phone calls from across the country and beyond about the natural swimming hole located in Devil’s Fork of Big Stony Creek near Fort Blackmore. The blue-green natural tub is said to hold water cold enough to chill the devil himself. It was named the best swimming hole in the Southeast by Blue Ridge Outdoors. According to Cox, it has also drawn tourists from all over, especially throughout the pandemic.
“The first year of the pandemic, I thought people were supposed to be at home. No, they all decided they wanted to see the Devil’s Bathtub,” Cox said. “One week they called me from Virginia Tourism. They said, ‘The devil’s bathtub is exploding. We’ve had 75,000 hits on our website. So we put my phone number in so that people can call and get information.
Little did Cox know she was getting calls sometimes at 4 a.m. asking for information about the natural wonder.
The site now includes improved parking, restrooms, an information kiosk, a park and a primitive car park which is expected to open in the coming months.
But now, Cox is ready to get the message out to tourists and locals alike — Scott County contains more than the cold waters of the natural bathtub.
“I want them to understand that we’re more than the devil’s bathtub,” Cox said. “There are a lot more things to do. We want them to go to Bark Camp Lake. We want them to go camping, kayaking, going to the Clinch River, eating and shopping downtown.
Scott County is known for its outdoor options, Cox said. According to the results of a recent visitor survey by Scott County Tourism, 65% of tourists in 2021 ranked Natural Tunnel State Park as the number one destination in the county. The Devil’s Bath was second with 40%, followed by the Clinch River with 28%, Little Stony Falls with 20% and the Wilderness Road Blockhouse with 17%.
The Natural Tunnel features a chairlift, a naturally sculpted tunnel with passing trains, history, events and more in the 52-year-old park that still attracts tourists. It also received first place in the survey for accommodation with 23% of the votes.
“Natural Tunnel’s cabins came up in this survey as where people came to stay,” Cox said. “And people also come for their events.”
What might be the biggest surprise is the second-tier activity for tourists, according to the survey. Shopping won 29% of the vote after hiking topped the charts with 77%.
“We knew the hike was the most important thing,” Cox said. “But what came second was the shopping. And it’s all in these little shops in small towns like downtown Gate City.
Downtown Gate City includes ongoing events such as the Kickin’ Back at King Alley concert series and holiday celebrations as well as never-before-seen events such as the upcoming Gate City Jeep Jamboree scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.
Most of the time, tourists travel through Scott County’s 535 square miles in search of outdoor adventure.
The Clinch River offers fishing, floating, a swing bridge and more in Scott County. Little Stony Falls and the Hanging Rock Trailhead include a 24-foot-tall waterfall, sweeping views of deep gorges, and lush forest on a 6-mile round-trip hike from Dungannon. The county also includes bike paths through the Clinch River Highway as well as the AP Carter Highway.
“We’re more of an outdoor destination,” Cox said. “But if you don’t know where you’re going, it can be difficult. We try to keep people informed about what it’s like to go to places like the Devil’s Bath.
To publicize what all of Scott County has to offer – and perhaps most importantly, how to get to each destination – Cox has worked to distribute Scott County Travel Guides complete with a map, destination listings musical, natural and historic sites and more throughout the county.
She envisions kiosks that would serve as a sort of welcome center for tourists coming to Scott County. Cox thinks setting up three information centers throughout the county would help distribute information and resources, especially for those unfamiliar with the area.
“I wish I had a better way of distributing information to visitors,” Cox said. “I’ve looked at kiosks that are like computers on steroids. You can pick up the phone and call the places you’re looking right there.
For more information or a complete list of Scott County destinations and activities, go to https://www.explorescottcountyva.org/.
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