Valley Rewind: Blue Ridge Parkway
This photo from the Swannanoa Valley Museum's Edward Dupuy collection features breathtaking views from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The scenic road's construction began in 1935 near Cumberland Knob after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved the concept of constructing a scenic motorway linking the two newly-built parks, Shenandoah in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The decision to build the parkway was met with great controversy, particularly by the city of Asheville, which found itself in dire economic straits at the height of the Great Depression. Designers of the fabled road soon crafted a route that would send drivers veering out of North Carolina and into Tennessee around Grandfather Mountain, bypassing Asheville entirely and bringing traffic to the Smokies via Tennessee’s doorstep. The Asheville Chamber of Commerce and other city leaders joined forces to lobby against the proposed route in favor of a road that passed through their city. Efforts made by city officials eventually resulted in a victory for Asheville, with the full route going from Virginia through North Carolina. The 469-mile parkway was eventually completed in 1987, spanning from Shenandoah Valley National Park to the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today, the Blue Ridge Parkway remains the No. 1 most visited unit of the U.S. National Park system on record.