The abundance of flora and fauna found on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of its greatest attractions for visitors. Visitors can come at any time of year and see something extraordinary, and residents can be swept through the seasons by appreciating the Parkway’s natural offerings.
Hundreds of uniquely beautiful wildflowers bloom throughout the spring and summer, vividly colorful leaves turn throughout the fall, and snow and ice cover and soften the landscape through the winter.
Deer sightings are common yet always breathtaking, black bears meander through the woods, and occasionally among the more common sightings will be rarer glimpses of the bog turtle or Heller’s blazing star. A visitor can see thousands of species if they know where and how to look.
This thriving multitude of species is the result of several conditions. Multiple and overlapping habitats, exceptional examples of forest communities, and dramatic changes in elevation and weather conditions allow varying habitats to exist side by side. Waters along the Blue Ridge Parkway begin with thousands of mountaintop seeps that come out of rock faces or from the forest floor and flow down hillsides into over a thousand streams and five major rivers. Parkway lands drop as low as 650 feet above sea level at James River (Milepost 64), rise as high as 6,047 feet at Richland Balsam (Milepost 431), and stretch 500 miles from end-to-end. Ridgetops bear the full force of wind, sun, and severe weather conditions, while valleys are protected from harsh conditions by mountain walls. Blue Ridge Mountain ecology is unparalleled in its diversity.
With knowledge and patience, the Parkway can become a place of infinite natural discovery. It is also a place of protection for its enormous diversity of plants and animals, so remember as you explore to do no harm, and leave no trace.
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A Note About Endangered Species
The Blue Ridge Parkway supports several species of plants and animals that are rare, threatened, and endangered. Some of these, such as the Peaks of Otter salamander and the Blue Ridge goldenrod, are not able to survive in any other area of the world. The park protects these species by protecting their habitat. Visitors may notice special trail construction, experimental plantings and signs that alert hikers to the presence of an endangered species. You can help by remembering to stay on the trails when you hike, protecting habitat from the devastating effects of “people feet.”
The stunning wildlife along the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts more than 14 million annual visitors from near and far for viewing and photographing opportunities. This information-packed, pocket-size field guide features more than 200 species of mammals, birds, insects, fish, wildflowers, mushrooms and more in a convenient, portable package.Book Details Buy Now