Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the places that we have had the opportunity to visit/drive on while in North Carolina was the Blue Ridge Parkway. Obviously, we did not drive the whole Blue Ridge Parkway as it runs for 469 miles, but the section we drove (50 miles) clearly demonstrated why this drive is noted for its scenic beauty and is a must do for everyone. If you have not had the chance to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you should schedule a road trip very soon!

History and Description of the Blue Ridge Parkway:  Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway begun during the administration of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, the project was originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway. Most construction was carried out by private contractors under federal contracts under an authorization by Harold L. Ickes in his role as federal public works administrator. Work began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina; construction in Virginia began the following February. On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the Blue Ridge Parkway and placed it under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Some work was carried out by various New Deal public works agencies. The Works Progress Administration did some roadway construction. Crews from the Emergency Relief Administration carried out landscape work and development of parkway recreation areas. Personnel from four Civilian Conservation Corps camps worked on roadside cleanup, roadside plantings, grading slopes, and improving adjacent fields and forest lands. During World War II, the CCC crews were replaced by conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service program.

Construction of the parkway took over 52 years to complete, with the last stretch (near the Linn Cove Viaduct) being laid around Grandfather Mountain in 1987. The Blue Ridge Parkway tunnels were constructed through the rock—one in Virginia and twenty-five in North Carolina. Sections of the parkway near the tunnels are often closed in winter. (Due to dripping groundwater from above, freezing temperatures, and the lack of sunlight, ice often accumulates inside these areas even when the surrounding areas are above freezing.) The highest point on the parkway (south of Waynesville, near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina) is 6053 feet on Richland Balsam Mountain at Milepost 431, and is often closed from November to April due to inclement weather such as snow, fog, and even freezing fog from low clouds. The parkway is carried across streams, railway ravines and cross roads by 168 bridges and six viaducts.

The parkway runs from the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive in Virginia at Rockfish Gap to U.S. Route 441 at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. There is no fee for using the parkway, however commercial vehicles are prohibited without approval from the Park Service Headquarters, near Asheville, North Carolina. The roadway is not maintained in the winter, and sections which pass over especially high elevations and through tunnels are often impassable and therefore closed from late fall through early spring. Weather is extremely variable in the mountains, so conditions and closures often change rapidly. The speed limit is never higher than 45 mph (70 km/h) and lower in some sections.

Further Thoughts: The Blue Ridge Parkway is truly an inspirational drive. We visited both Grandfather Mountain and The Blowing Rock which are close to the blue ridge parkway. We are no experts concerning the ins and outs of the road, however it does not take one to say that at some point in your life you need to experience a ride along the Blue Ride Parkway which is one of the most scenic drives in North Carolina we have ever done. You want to be on the lookout for wildlife while driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway as we did see a number of deer close to the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway in a number of sections.

Also make sure to take your time while driving on the parkway as there are many stopping points along the way that offer scenic vistas as well places to stop, hike, shop, and look around. If you are looking for more information about places to visit along the Blue Ridge Parkway click Here for another good site or Here for the National Park Service Website.

Rating: Elevation Gain: Varies depending on how much you get out of your car (Easy), Distance: Varies depending on how much you get out of your car (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: It really depends on how long you stop, your speed, and a number of other factors. The main thing when driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway is to take your time and enjoy the stops along the way.


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