Rebuilding Stone Guardrails Will Cause Traffic Problems in Blue Ridge Parkway

Come November 1 you'll have to detour around a section of the parkway due to reconstruction of historic stone guardrails. The shot of the Parkway's Deep Gap Bridge shows the beauty of the guardrails. NPS map, bridge photo by Randy Johnson.

Part of the beauty of traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway is man-made -- the gorgeous stone guardrails along some of the bends in the 469-mile parkway. Unfortunately, needed work on some of those guardrails will cause some traffic problems in the months ahead.

The worst-case scenario will be from November 1 through April 29, 2011, when the parkway will be closed to all traffic from Milepost 241 near Doughton Park to Milepost 244.9 at Basin Cove Parking Overlook. Though the work will close the road, this part of the Parkway can close anyway during the height of the winter snow season

Detour traffic signage will direct Parkway visitors around the closure area via NC Route 18 and US Highway 21. The accompanying map will give you some ideas of how to detour around this work.

Access to the Bluffs Lodge and Coffee Shop following the regular seasonal operating schedule will remain open from the north via the parkway, according to the National Park Service. Signs will be in place to direct visitors to the Bluffs Lodge and Coffee Shop.

Some earlier snarls will arise in mid-September, as reconstruction work will lead to single-lane traffic closures along the length of the project from September 13 through September 30.

Upon completion of the first phase of construction, additional closures and detours will follow between Milepost 218 near Cumberland Knob and Milepost 240.7 near Doughton Park. The project is scheduled to be completed in May 2012.

The Historic Stone Guardwall Reconstruction Project will involve 28 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 217 to Milepost 245) that contain 32,000 linear feet of historic rock masonry walls, the Park Service said. A significant portion of the walls are severely deteriorated due to settlement and the effect of freeze-thaw cycles over the past 75 years. This project rehabilitates and reconstructs the most deficient wall sections.

Constructed during the late 1930s, these rock walls are now an important historic parkway resource. Though built in the rustic style used throughout other American national parks, the walls have become a significant feature that defines the visual and historic character of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This project is intended to restore the structural integrity and historic appearance of this important cultural resource.

Other kinds of rock work along the Parkway also qualify as defining elements of the road's aesthetic. In many places, atmospheric stone bridges also reflect the artistry of early masons who built the Parkway. Those features are so much a part of the road that when US 421 was expanded in 2002 to a four-lane road through Deep Gap, east of Boone, North Carolina, the Park Service embraced public pressure and completed the new, much larger bridge in the same style as the original bridge over the two-lane highway