A Handbook for Managers of Cultural Landscapes with Natural Resource Values Conservation Study Institute
Blue Ridge Parkway, NPS photo
Blue Ridge Parkway, NPS photo



The Issue


Tools & Approaches

Return to Main Handbook Document
Blue Ridge Parkway, NPS photo
View Main Handbook

Appalachian Mountains, Virginia and North Carolina

Contact: Superintendent

Blue Ridge Parkway
199 Hemphill Knob Road
Asheville, NC 28803

NPS photo
Scenic view from Blue Ridge Parkway

Introduction to the Site as a Cultural Landscape: Recognizing Cultural and Natural Resource Values

NPS photo
Zigzag fence creates short-distance view.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile linear cultural landscape that was constructed between 1935 and 1987. It is important historically because it was the first national rural parkway to be conceived, designed, and built as a leisure driving experience. The landscape architects and engineers who designed the roadway did so to maximize motorists' appreciation for the natural, cultural, and scenic qualities of the southern Appalachians. No other park in the country better represents the art of parkway design and construction as practiced in the 1930s, or has maintained the Blue Ridge Parkway's integrity for historic landscape design. The richness, significance, and integrity of its built fabric led a 1993 draft historic resource study to suggest that the parkway be placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a continuous historic district including the 226 historic buildings, sites, and roadway structures along its length. While the parkway has not been formally nominated to the National Register, it is treated as eligible for planning and for environmental and cultural compliance purposes. The parkway's character also includes scenic views encompassing dramatic panoramas of mountain ranges and vernacular landscapes—pastoral scenes with rolling farmland, rail fences, old farmhouses, and churches—representative of the agricultural history of the region. While it is likely that significant archaeological resources lie within the park, a comprehensive archaeological survey and inventory have not yet been initiated due to a lack of funding.

NPS photo
Scenic Overlook

The parkway follows the crests and ridges of five major mountain ranges in the central and southern Appalachians, and lies at an elevation ranging from 600 to 6,000 feet above sea level, encompassing several vegetative zones. Wildlife is abundant in the park; foxes, opossums, groundhogs, white-tailed deer, and an occasional black bear can be seen. The land along the parkway also provides habitat for less easily seen wildlife such as reptiles and amphibians. More than 100 species of birds migrate through the area in the spring. Park lands are home to 1,250 vascular plant species, 25 of which are rare and endangered, and 4 rare and endangered animal species. The park also encompasses 21 natural heritage areas and relatively uncommon high elevation mountain bogs.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Gettysburg National Military Park

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

The Presidio:
Crissy Field

The Presidio:
Presidio Forest

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Printable PDF Version of this Case Study

Return to CSI WebsiteHomeContact Us