More than just a road, this varied habitat, ranging from 649 feet at James River in Virginia to 6,047 feet at Richland Balsam in North Carolina, offers protection to an enormous diversity of plants and animals.
The Parkway supports as many plant species as any other unit of America's National Park System, and provides a protected migration corridor for many forms of wildlife. The variety of species includes 43 kinds of amphibians, 99 fish, 60 mammals, 225 birds, and 31 reptiles.
The mountain ranges of the Parkway include the oldest mountain-building processes in the world. The road sits at the headwaters of many local and regional watersheds and crosses five major rivers that define the hydrological patterns of much of the southeastern United States.
Trees are everywhere, over 100 species! In spring, tulip trees and serviceberry produce showy blooms. In fall, leaves burst into color. Flowering shrubs such as rhododendron, flame azalea, and mountain laurel put on a springtime show that rivals the tree's fall display.