Running 469 miles along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a designated National Parkway. We decided make its length our primary destination this summer.
The 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 continuous series of panoramic views…a museum of the American countryside, preserving the rough-hewn log cabin of the mountain pioneer, the summer home of a textile magnate, and traces of early industries. It is the fleeting glimpses of a wild animal or a spot to picnic in the woods. It is all these things and more. 1
Started in 1935, many of the earliest workers came from federal agencies including the well-known Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA).
A lesser known group of workers came on the scene during the war (WWII), the Civilian Public Service, made up of conscientious objectors to the war. In fact the work was slowed or halted throughout the years during both WWII and the Korean wars.
26 Tunnels had to be constructed through rock. The longest is 1,320 feet long.
176 bridges were needed to allow other roads to pass the Parkway without directly intersecting it. The structures of both tunnels and bridges are works of art, using a “capstone” arch design. Stone from the immediate area was used by the stonemasons at each site to help the structures blend into the landscape.
The last and most impressive element of construction came in the early eighties with the Linn Cove Viaduct. Grandfather Mountain was considered a too fragile and valuable eco-biological resource to deface, so a viaduct bridge was designed to provide access around the mountain.
The 153 precast segments, each weighing 50 tons, were made in a facility a mile away, then each was trucked to the site and added to the extension of the bridge. Only one segment was straight, as the entire bridge is shaped in an S curve.
The only disturbed areas of the mountain were where the 7 supporting piers enter the ground.
Otherwise, the construction crew never touched the ground. Trees that were there before the bridge started were still standing at its completion, an amazing feat in itself.
The icon is 1,243 feet long and 35 feet wide. It is located at an elevation of 4,100 feet. Taking three and a half years to complete, the final cost of the bridge was 10 million, and provided the completing link to the Blue Ridge Parkway in November 1982.
Over 52 years after the start of construction, in 1983 the Blue Ridge Parkway was complete.
If you have found the above of interest, more detailed information on the Parkway’s history can be found on the following sites:
1 Paragraph adapted from Highways in Harmony: Designing and Building the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Historical photos were found at various sites on the internet.