For more than one billion years the lands that are now the Blue Ridge Parkway have been affected by a variety of environmental factors. Beginning with a collision between two huge land masses about 1.1 billion years ago and continuing up to the present day's weathering and erosion, the mountains have been built up and worn down. Once similar to the jagged peaks of the young Rocky Mountains, the older mountains of the southern Appalachians have been worn down by millions of years of erosion and now show the rounded topography and lower elevations that we enjoy today.
Other factors are also at work. Humans have been altering the natural systems here for thousands of years, with increasing impacts since Europeans arrived almost 300 years ago. With more than 1,200 miles of boundary, development encroaches along much of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hundreds of utility rights-of-way and roads cross its length. Agricultural activities both on and off the Parkway and logging up to its boundaries have changed large patches of vegetation and fragmented remaining areas. Non-native pests and diseases are killing a variety of native plants and animals. Other exotic species are competing with or displacing natives from their habitat. Both air and water pollution have degraded entire systems along the Parkway.
Despite all of these impacts the Blue Ridge Parkway continues to provide thousands of acres of natural habitat and refuge. Lands that were disturbed in the past are reverting back to healthy natural systems, providing animals and plants with habitats that are increasingly uncommon on neighboring lands.
Last updated: April 14, 2015