Time travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Native American culture along the highway is another important part of the area’s history. the Cherokee people of North Carolina, along with West Virginia tribes such as the Monacan, Saboni, and Tutelo, were the first inhabitants of the area surrounding the park, and echoes of their lives, communities, and cultures can still be seen along the trail today. According to the National Park ServiceMuch of the landscape itself was shaped by these peoples. “Many of the fields still visible at the base of the mountains date back centuries to ancient American Indian agricultural methods of burning and deadening trees and shrubs to provide needed pasture and farmland.” (Cherokee, North Carolina).—The southern point of the parkway—Visitors can learn about the history of the Cherokee people and the Qualla Frontier where They still live today, and much more.
Abbott and the rest of the team who worked on designing the road had many criteria for the completed project, one of the most important of which was diversity. Abbott referred to this as “spice” the route, and was heavily invested in creating and growing a variety of experiences along the way. This means wide, sprawling landscapes, but also closer, more intimate views of trees and other natural phenomena. This philosophy creates a drive that keeps visitors engaged as they wander throughout the mountainss The Blue Ridge Parkway has many noteworthy attractions along its length.
At mile 355.4 you’ll find Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Winding alongside the highway is the New River, the oldest river in North America and the second oldest in the world. Formed by Jonas Ridge and Linville Mountain, Linville Gorge is a popular stop for visitors on their trek for its incredible views, but it is also the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon. Whitewater Falls, which can be viewed from a number of impressive overlooks, drops 411 feet, making it the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.
Although some sections of the parkway were already in use, the project as a whole was a massive undertaking, and the Blue Ridge Parkway was not officially dedicated until September 11, 1987. VirtualBlueRidge describes the extent of construction work required to bring the road to its present glory, noting that “ About twenty-six tunnels were dug across the mountain ridge, with dozens of bridges needed to make rivers and streams passable. More than 200 parking areas, overlooks and upgraded areas were incorporated into the design so that motorists could enjoy a pleasant ride through the mountains. The route was finally completed when The “missing link” of the road was located at the bottom of the road near Grandfather Mountain.
Today, nearly 90 years after construction began, the Blue Ridge Parkway remains one of the most visited National Park Service sites each year, and in 2022, the number–One place with 15.71 million visits. Since its inception, the parkway has hosted more than 600 million visitors eager to enjoy the beautiful panoramas of these ancient mountains, and to learn more about the history of the people, places and things that make Southern Appalachia so special.
This photo, originally published in the Charlotte Observer, shows the final stages of construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Lane Cove Bridge, pictured, wraps around the face of Grandfather Mountain and was the last piece of road laid more than 50 years after construction on the project began.