Blue Ridge Parkway
Virginia and North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is many things. It is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States. It is an elongated park, protecting significant mountain landscapes far beyond the shoulders of the road itself. It is a series of parks providing the visitor access to high mountain passes, splendid natural "gardens" of flowering mountain plants, waterfalls and water gaps, deep forests and upland meadows. It is a continuous series of panoramic views, the boundaries of its limited right-of way rarely apparent and miles of the adjacent countryside seemingly a part of the protected scene. It is a "museum of the managed American countryside," preserving the roughhewn log cabin of the mountain pioneer, the summer home of a textile magnate, and traces of early industries such as logging railways and an old canal. It is miles of split-rail fence, moss on a wood shingle roof, broomcorn and flax in a pioneer garden. It is the fleeting glimpse of a deer, a wild turkey or a red fox, or for those who prefer their animal life less wild, herds of cows grazing in pastures or horses trotting in fields. It is a chain of recreational areas, offering motorists a spot to picnic in the woods, a place to sleep overnight in a campground or a rustic lodge, as well as opportunities to refuel their vehicle, enjoy a meal, or purchase a piece of fine regional handicraft. It is the product of a series of major public works projects which provided a boost to the travel and tourism industry and helped the Appalachian region climb out the depths of the Great Depression. The Blue Ridge Parkway is all these things and more, so it should come as no surprise that this is the most heavily visited unit in the National Park System.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was not the first planned scenic road through this mountain chain. In 1906, North Carolina state geologist Joseph Hyde Pratt proposed a scenic toll road down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Marion, Virginia to Tallulah, Georgia. In 1914, Dr. Pratt secured a charter for the "Appalachian Highway Company." Construction began between Altapass and Pineola, North Carolina, but the outbreak of World War I brought the work to a halt. Today, a one-mile segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 317.6 and 318.7 follows the route of Pratt's road.
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