The Blue Ridge Parkway

As many of you know, I have many photos in my portfolio of shots taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here is the history of the BRP.

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 fifty-two years to complete, 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 sunshine, 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 6047 feet (according to the 2005 Parkway map) or 1845m above sea level (AMSL) 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.

Journal Comments

  • Mar Silva
  • Tara Johnson