Blue Ridge Parkway ~ Pisgah National Forest
Like a great serpent sprung from its coil, it winds along its way above the deep valley moors.
Slipping thru the clouds between heaven and earth, it reaches beyond where the Blue Mountains soar.
Along the ridge tops the serpent slithers and roams, scaling the highest peaks of its southern mountain home.
Stretching its long body across high terrain, the serpent moves upon its quest protecting its sacred claim.
The great length of the serpent both rises and falls, with twist and turns it paves a noble cause.
Its black body glistens against mountains so high, as it reflects the captured rays of a sun showered sky.
The enormous length of the serpent’s black frame, lives divided in half by a long yellow lane.
Each side as it moves goes both to and fro, making its long journey as it continues to roll.
It warms its huge body in the day’s bright sun, resting along the ridges where the ancient mountains run.
It shades itself under a blanket of forest, ducking for cover into tunnels it has forged.
The serpent finds its rest in dens on valley floors, satisfying its hunger where the mighty river roars.
It welcomes its guest to all come and to play, wishing they would never leave hoping they will stay.
Such are the legacy and wonders of its lore, the great Blue Ridge Parkway will beckon forever more.
There are some who look upon the Blue Ridge Parkway as just another highway of no particular concern. Many view the Blue Ridge Parkway as and engineering wonder capturing the beauty of Mother Nature’s handy work set against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountain Province. Idealist with their impractical visions see the Blue Ridge Parkway as a bureaucratic miracle of modern times. An impossible feat during our present time considering the average construction of a mountain road by today’s standards cost about 10 million per mile. The parkway is 469 miles long and most of route along the parkway is difficult for construction and not your average mountain mile.
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Qualla Boundary of the Cherokee People on the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains Park in North Carolina. The 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway passes thru both the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in Virginia plus the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The parkway takes travelers from valley floors as low as 600 feet above sea level to the heights of the southern highlands 6,053 foot Richland Balsam in the Pisgah National Forest. The majority of the Blue Ridge Parkway travels across the spine of mountain ridges.
Along the way travelers will witness historic pioneer settlements and Native America village sites. Here on the Parkway they will experience the beauty of scenic vistas plus an endless array of wildflowers, along the journey they are likely to encounter numerous sighting of mountain wildlife and enjoy countless hiking trails that will take them into the solitude of the mountain wilderness. The Blue Ridge Parkway pass thru the historic mountain cities of Roanoke in Virginia and the city of Asheville in North Carolina, the home of the renowned Biltmore Estate a private family own American castle open to the public year round. Throughout the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway are countless opportunities to experience natural wonders and historic sights located within the vicinity of the parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers a wealth in cultural heritage and folk arts, including the famous Penland Folk School conveniently located right on the parkway just outside of Asheville North Carolina.
Most visitors to the Blue Ridge Mountains choose a destination that will take them to a popular resort, National Park or Forest or any particular mountainous region where they will spend much of there vacation time. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a destination in itself, once a visitor has reached either the northern end of the parkway in Virginia where the 496-mile post begins at mile 0 or the extreme southern entrance of the parkway at the Great Smoky Mountain Park at milepost 469. Travelers can access the Blue Ridge Parkway along dozens of junction if they’re just looking for a day’s journey on the scenic byway. The full experience of the Blue Ridge Parkway 469 miles can’t be measured in hours but in days. In order to experience the entire parkway along with many of its trails, historical sights and mountain vistas can take an average of 11 days. This time table of 11 days may not include every thing a visitor will what to see or do, its likely a trip back to the Blue Ridge Parkway would be in order. If a traveler were to come in the springtime it would be encouraged for them to also visit in the fall.
The areas along the parkway and in and around the parkway offer everything from lodging, dining, shopping, live entertainment, festivals, museums, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, overnight backpacking trips, whitewater rafting and kayaking, mountain climbing and repelling, caving and water recreations at the many mountain lakes located near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It is believed that the concept of another scenic parkway in the likeness of the Blue Ridge Parkway with its length of nearly 500-miles is inconceivable by today’s financial standards. The parkway is a non-commercial scenic highway and would not fit into the preconceive notions of realistic thinking due to the monumental task that would have to be considered for its construction; even though the revenue generated by the parkway as a tourist attraction draws and overall revenue of 2 billion dollars a year.
The wonder and the vision of the Blue Ridge Parkway began in the worst of times and the best of times. Ironically the Great Depression was in full swing when Congress was considering creating the new scenic byway. Hard financial times were pressing our nation and it was a period when our young country needed to take a serious look at the greater sense of preserving our National Treasures.
The National Forest, whose roots were found in 1891 by President Theodore Roosevelt; did not officially become known as National Forest until 1907. It was during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidential era that the eastern National Parks were taking shape. Tough times were just what President Franklin Roosevelt put into action the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 in order to implement the Public Works Administration, which oversaw and developed the construction and maintenance of public highways and scenic byways. The program often called President F. D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” created jobs for Americans who desperately needed income during the Depression and so was founded the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps existing from 1933 to 1942. The CCC employees often lived in remote camps and worked at creating the trails, building structures, reforestation of the landscape, helped roadway development and more.
After witnessing the completion of the Skyline Drive that traverses the entire length of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1935 allocating 16.5 million dollars to the project, the parkway would connect the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The President preformed an elaborate dedication to the opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National at Newfound Gap on September 2, 1940.
The 469-mile scenic parkway was classified and under the protection as a National Park status and would take 52 years to complete due to delays caused by construction, a second world war and meticulous conservation necessary to protecting the fragile realm of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over 20 million visitors travel the parkway annually. Sounds like a lot of visitors yet it’s the extensive length of the scenic parkway that presents what appears to its many travelers as low traffic volume.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an exceptional experience in scenic driving tours and is an ever-growing feature in the Blue Ridge Highlander’s virtual Scenic Highlander Tours. So rich in southern mountain heritage and natural wonders that it would requires volumes of information and personal experiences in order to bring its readers in contact with the very heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Blue Ridge Highlander encourages everyone who has a strong or even a casual love for the great outdoors to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway at least once in their lifetime if not often. It’s a rare treasure awaiting your personal discovery an extraordinary gift from a government likely to never be created again preserved for generations offering an experience in beauty, engineering and natural wonders.
Although very enjoyable, the mountains can be a driving challenge to a flatlander (no offense), to help you with your new venture, take a look at our driving tips.
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