About Selu Conservancy

Photograph of the Selu Barn and Observatory

Radford University’s Selu Conservancy is located just minutes from campus on 380 acres along the Little River. Beautiful views, abundant trails, an impressive retreat center and a river-front boathouse provide an ideal environment for corporate meetings, family reunions, school outings or for other groups seeking an off-the-beaten-path retreat.

The Selu facility offers community groups a place for a comfortable dinner or larger meeting or reception with full catering services.  Funded by a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation and other private donors, this heated and air-conditioned 5,100-square-foot facility offers year round accommodations for various programs and activities.

Selu is used as an outdoor classroom for Radford University students. The barn houses a science lab for field work on the lower level, a multi-purpose room on the main floor, and the attached silo is home of an observatory for astronomy classes and research.

The Farm at Selu Conservancy features a farmhouse typical of the 1930's time period. It also features original and restored outbuildings used by a farm family of that era. The Appalachian Studies Program interprets farm and home life for students, public and private schools in the region, and community residents.  Traditional folkways, folk architecture, and oral history of the region are all part of the offerings at The Farm at Selu.

History of Selu


Selu History photo gallery

Founded in 1989, when John Hargrove Bowles donated 185 acres of his ancestral land to RU, Selu Conservancy was named by poet Marilou Awiakta for the mythical Cherokee “grandmother corn-spirit.”  Several years later, a gift from Bowles’ cousins expanded the tract to its present 380 acres along the Little River, just outside Radford.

John Hargrove Bowles wanted to represent and exemplify the spirit of giving that the indigenous people of this area - the Cherokee nation - believed in and embodied.  They used to visit the lands that are now part of the Selu Conservancy, to hunt and gather.  John believed that they were the original "owners" of the land, and they passed it down through generations.

John's grandmother was given the original land by Solace Peters, who she nursed for the last seven years of his life.  Eventually the property was split.  When John inherited his portion of the property he wanted to ensure that the land remained serene, undeveloped, and that its beauty could be shared by as many people as possible.  John donated his acreage to the Radford University Foundation Inc., with the proviso that it become a Conservancy, and be used for the benefit of all.  John did keep 10 acres for himself and built a log cabin where he eventually plans to retire.  John talked to his cousins about what he had done with the land, and they decided to donate their portions of the property, to become part of the Selu Conservancy.

Radford University manages the Selu Conservancy in a manner consistent with best practices for stewardship and preservation of a natural environment, and in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The University uses the Selu Conservancy property for various classes and research projects throughout the academic year.  External groups are able to make reservations for meetings, conferences, hiking, and canoeing when the space is available.