The Blue Ridge Parkway

By: Tony Franklin

“America’s Favorite Drive”

The Blue Ridge Parkway was built for a nice leisurely pace and a relaxed driving experience.  The drive will allow a person to access the natural beauty and will give a glimpse into the culture of the southern mountains.  A winter’s scene is truly spectacular if you are lucky enough to see one because the Parkway can be closed during snow storms.  Check with this telephone number for any weather-related road closures. (828) 298 0398.

The World’s “Oldest” Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are among the oldest mountains here in the United States.  Although the Blue Ridge Mountains are often mistaken for the oldest mountains in the world, they are not the oldest.  The actual fact is that they are about 1 billion years old as compared to the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa, which is about 3.6 billion years old.

The southern mountains of this region the North Carolina region are called the Blue Ridge or Appalachian Mountains.  They are part of an enormous system in North America that spans from Alabama upwards almost to Canada.  They stretch 1500 miles in a northeastern direction. This region of the mountains is known for their ruggedness and also their scenic beauty.

The Native American tribe of the Cherokees; called the mountains Sah-ka-na’-ga, which means “The Great Blue Hills of God.”  This area is one of the most varied in the world.  That is speaking ecologically of course.  There are about 100 different varieties of trees, 1600 plant species, 54 mammals, and 159 different species of birds.

Spring along the Parkway

When the temperatures begin to get warmer and the days begin to get longer, the new season will bring a show of the native wildflowers.   During spring, look for the serviceberry and the mayapple with their beautiful white blooms.  These varieties are seen along trails and also scattered all throughout the forests.  Do not get over-confident though and think that winter is over because the park can and does get late snow storms.  The key is to be prepared and keep extra layers of clothing and food in your vehicles. A spring snow usually goes away as quickly as it falls.

Food and Lodging

Your party can find restaurants and inns all along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Please check for available scheduling as some places may be seasonal.  The season is usually late April to the fall color display of the many species of trees.

There are many communities along the way to visit that are close to the Parkway.  You can experience different cultures and may also find refuge from a winter’s storm.  Local foods and hospitality abound in this rural setting.

Ranger Programs and Activities

In the late spring you will find many programs, that are offered to people for educational purposes.  These programs are led by the Parkway Rangers.  From the Blue Ridge Parkway, at the Spruce Pine turn at mile marker 331 is look for the Museum of North Carolina Minerals.  Further south at mile marker 382 there is the Folk Art Center where local crafts and artisans display their talents.  The Parkway Visitors Center can be located at mile marker 384 and is open all year long.  Most of the other facilities begin to open around mid April.

Climate

A time of transition for the Parkway is early springtime.  The temperature and weather on top of the mountains can vary greatly during this time.  When compared to the surrounding valleys, be prepared to ride out any storm situations that may occur.  The spring weather is unpredictable and snow storms can be common on the peaks.  Call several surrounding areas and get the forecast before venturing into the mountains.  Be equipped to stay, if you have to, by keeping supplies in your vehicle as well as extra clothing and blankets.

Accessibility

“There is nothing so American as our national parks…. The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.”                              -President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Our parks have been set aside for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.  The governmental authorities connected to the parks are moving ahead to provide unequalled access to people with disabilities.  They are making hiking trails, campgrounds, exhibits, programs, and other opportunities available for disabled visitors.  Please remember that this section is only offered as a sample of the available facilities for the disabled visitor.

National Center on Accessibility
Indiana University Research Park
501 North Morton St, Suite 109
Bloomington, IN 47404

Voice: (812) 856-4422
TTY: (812) 856-4421
Fax: (812) 856-4480

The National Park Service and the North Carolina State Park Systems are dedicated to making every effort to ensure the places are accessible to each individual that visits them.  For a list of state parks in North Carolina; go to NC Travel Guide State Park Directory,  and for a list of national parks to visit; http://www.nps.gov.  Remember do plan your visit ahead and find out things you should know before arriving at the chosen destination.

The NPS and NCSP systems are committed to making every effort to ensure the practical use of the facilities, programs, services, employment, and work opportunities accessible to all and including those with disabilities.  When accessibility can not be provided at the same sites as everyone else then special, separate, or alternative facilities and services will be provided when the existing facilities are not reasonably accessible to people with disabilities.

 

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