The National Park Service has always balanced two goals: protect the parks and allow visitors to enjoy them. What happens when parents try to show their child nature by coaxing a deer closer with food? How do we protect the park from the people and still provide the public with the recreation they want? First, visitors must learn how to take care of their parks. If you have a question, ask a ranger! If you are not certain, don't do it! Here are some ways to make your visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway good for you and the park. Many of these regulations are enforced with fines up to $5000 and up to six months in jail. Remember, preserving the environment is everyone's job!
Hunting is not allowed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Like any national park, the Parkway is managed as a preserve for wildlife. No hunting is allowed, and all types of weapons from slingshots to shotguns are carefully controlled.
As of February 22, 2010, a new federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws, to legally possess firearms in this park. It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering the park. Federal law also prohibits firearms in certain facilities; those places are marked with signs at all public entrances. Check state regulations for Virginia or North Carolina to make certain of your compliance while in the park.
Spotlighting is illegal. This is one of the more commonly broken laws in national parks because visitors often see no harm in briefly turning their headlights on a group of deer at night. However, this does disturb the deer and can easily be mistaken for attempted poaching.
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Open containers of alcohol in a vehicle or in a public place are prohibited, except in designated picnic areas, campgrounds, and concessioner-operated locations. Drinking and driving is taken very seriously in national parks.
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Drive defensively. The Parkway provides an open clearing that attracts wildlife, especially at dusk and dawn. The best thing that you can do to protect wildlife from your car (and your car from wildlife) is to be alert and slow down!
Keep your pet on a leash. This is as much to protect your pet as the wildlife. When a loose pet chases a squirrel or raccoon, the wild animal's ability to survive is threatened, and when it is threatened, it may react aggressively.
Never feed any wildlife, even by accident! Leaving food on picnic tables or throwing trash in the woods teaches wild animals to raid your campsites. Hand-feeding the deer is even worse, since that teaches wildlife to approach humans. The deer or raccoon that eats from your hand this summer may starve this winter because it has forgotten how to find its own food. In addition, a tame deer is easy prey for poachers.
Picking wildflowers is prohibited. It might seem a small matter to let your child pick a handful of daisies, but if everyone did this, soon there would be no daisies to enjoy. The same rule applies to the gathering of chestnuts, since the chestnut is an endangered species. The cutting of ginseng and Paulownia is also illegal, but other edible plants may be collected for personal consumption only.
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As a rule, the speed limit on the Parkway is 45 mph., except in developed areas and near major intersections, where it drops to 35 mph. Traveling at faster speeds might cause you to miss a hairpin curve, or hit an animal, cyclist, or pedestrian. Motorcycling the Blue Ridge Parkway is enjoyable, but we have more than our share of motorcycle accidents, many times because the operator is not careful enough in negotiating the winding, frequent curves.
Accidents must be reported. If you are in an accident, or witness one, you must report it to a ranger as soon as possible. If a ranger is not in sight, call 1-800-PARKWATCH and report it to the operators. Remember, hitting an animal with your vehicle is considered as much of an accident as two vehicles colliding.
Road closed signs mean business. If you are traveling on the Parkway during the winter months, chances are you may encounter portions of the road that are closed due to winter ice and snow. Even if the road ahead looks clear, you should never attempt to drive on any closed section of the Parkway. Steep overhangs can cause icy patches to remain long after snows elsewhere have melted.
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Camping is permitted only at designated sites. Sites are for use by a single family or parties not exceeding six persons. All tents must be on pads provided.
RVs are allowed in tent sections only when all existing RV sites are occupied and adequate parking for RVs is available in the tent area
Parking and Driving
Vehicles are to be parked on the pavement of an assigned site or in designated parking areas. Only two vehicles may be parked in each site (i.e., trailer and car, two cars, two motorcycles). The speed limit in the campground is 15 mph.
Skateboards and Roller Skates
The use of skateboards, roller skates and other coasting devices is not permitted in the park or campground.
Wood gathering for use as fuel in park facilities is limited to dead material laying on ground within 300 yards of campgrounds and picnic areas.
Disturbance of Animal or Plant Life
Wildlife must not be disturbed in any way. Hunting or trapping animals is prohibited. Do not interfere with animals by feeding, touching, or teasing them. Store food in a locked vehicle to avoid attracting bears and other wildlife.
Plant life is protected, too. Do not drive nails into trees or strip bark, leaves, or branches from trees or shrubs. Use the lantern posts provided at each site. Do not hang lanterns from trees or loop them over branches or vegetation; these practices always damage and sometimes kill trees and vegetation.
Dogs, Cats and Pets
All dogs, cats, and other pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet or under physical restraint at all times while in the park. Pet owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets.
Drainage and Refuse
Campers must dispose of their waste water at public restrooms or dump stations only.
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