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A 14-mile section of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway is still closed after a large rock slide took place between Mount Mitchell and the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. The formal closure is between miles 355 and 364.5, which is one of the parkway’s more popular regions due to its proximity to Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain on the east coast.
According to the National Park Service: “Debris from the slide, which contains several larger rocks requiring special equipment to remove, is expected to take several days to clean-up.” As of today, the closure still remains in effect.
“Spring is not an unusual time for rock slides on the parkway, when the nightly freezing and daytime thawing of water on rock faces can make slopes unstable,” the National Park Service stated in a Facebook post. Natural erosion, and large amounts of precipitation can also cause rock slides.
Depending on the extent of the damage that’s caused by the rock slide, it can take anywhere from hours to years to re-open impacted roads. National Park officials haven’t provided a projected reopening date for the closed section of the parkway; calls to the Blue Ridge Parkway’s headquarters went unanswered.
This isn’t the first time that the Blue Ridge Parkway has experienced closures due to rock slides. In 2020, Tropical Storm Zeta downed trees and kicked off massive rock slides along the North Carolina section of the Blue Ridge Parkway after it brought heavy rain and 60 mile per hour gusts of winds. The result was 20 miles of highway closures along the Blue Ridge Parkway. In 2015, the Blue Ridge Parkway announced a similar closure after a large rock slide occurred near the southern terminus of the parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile scenic drive that stretches from Tennessee’s Great Smoky National Park to Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. The Appalachian Trail meets the Parkway in Tennessee and North Carolina. It also parallels and crosses over the Blue Ridge Parkway for about 70- miles in Virginia.
According to the National Park Service, the parkway sees nearly 16 million visitors each year, making it the most well-traveled National Park Service destination in the country. But it’s not impervious to road blocks and time-consuming clean up operations.
Visitors can find current closure information for the Blue Ridge Parkway here.