The Historic Blue Ridge Parkway

The Historic Blue Ridge Parkway

There is no road like it on this continent or in the world. No other road dares to hug the very crest of mountains for such a long distance, almost 470 miles. No road passes through such a variety of terrain or such a wide range of flora and fauna.

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The crowning jewel of the road is the Linn Cove Viaduct, one of the engineering marvels of the age, and the view from it is unmatched in the eastern United States.

The Blue Ridge Parkway brings you to marvelous places. Just in this region, it is the route to Linville Falls and the almost unspoiled Linville Gorge. There is Doughton Park, with its wonderful lodge and string of hiking trails; the Moses Cone mansion near Blowing Rock, and nearby Price Lake; there is the rustic Northwest Trading Post that offers local crafts and food; and much more.

pricelake

The dream of building a highway in these mountains dates back to 1911, when work began on the Crest of the Blue Ridge Highway. Only eight miles were completed, however, when World War I put an end to the work.

In 1933, Sen. Harry F. Byrd of Virginia took Pres. Franklin Roosevelt on a motor tour through the Shenandoah Mountains. It was then he proposed a road linking the national parks there and in the Great Smokies.

The suggestion came at an excellent time. The country was just beginning to recover from the Depression, and public works projects meant jobs. Work soon began on the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park.

The route of the proposed Blue Ridge Parkway became a matter of heated controversy between Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The matter was finally settled by Congress.

On September 11, 1935, a group of men climbed out of a truck and over a rail fence on the Ashe-Alleghany line. The construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway had begun.

That work would take 52 years to complete. There were countless bridges to build and 20 tunnels to blast out of the rock. Mile by mile, section by section, the work progressed. The last link was around Grandfather Mountain. Hugh Morton, the Mountain's owner, steadfastedly fought the government over the environmental impact of the road in this sensitive area.

viaduct

The result was a compromise called the Linn Cove Viaduct. With 60-mile views in one direction and Grandfather Mountain on the other, it is a wonder to enjoy and visit over and over again.

This last link was opened to the public on September 11, 1987.

Some Cautions

Don't forget the Blue Ridge Parkway is a mountain road. It is well built and basically safe, but there are plenty of winding sections and some quite abrupt changes in elevation.

The 45 mph speed limit is there for a reason: it's a good, safe speed. You may find yourself going slower to enjoy the scenery. That's fine, but don't let cars stack up behind you. Stop off at one of the frequent overlooks for a few minutes. You'll clear up the jam and have a chance to enjoy the view, wildflowers, a trail, or an interpretive display.

Weather changes rapidly in the mountains. Summer thunderstorms can be extremely powerful and come on very suddenly. It's best to find a safe spot and park until the storm passes.

Fog is another, and very dangerous problem. First off, you will rarely see real fog. What happens is clouds get low enough that they cover the mountains. The result is the same: a thick, white covering that cuts visibility drastically. There are times when it is impossible to see beyond the sides of your vehicle. When you encounter thick fog, the best policy is to cut your speed and find an exit. Exercise great caution; when you can't see to turn, roll down your window and listen for approaching vehicles.

fog

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