People often ask us “What are the Blue Ridge Mountains?” It gets confusing because there are the Appalachian Mountains and the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The following information is from Wikipedia.
The Appalachian Mountains is the big mountain range and goes from eastern Canada to central Alabama. The entire system is almost 2,000 miles. The Blue Ridge Mountains are part of the Appalachian range. The mountains are well known for their bluish color when seen from a distance. Trees put the “blue” in Blue Ridge, from the hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to the characteristic haze on the mountains and their distinctive color. Within the Blue Ridge province, there are two National Parks: the Shenandoah in the northern section and the Great Smoky Mountains in the southern section.
The name “Smoky” comes from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance. This fog, which is most common in the morning and after rainfall, is the result of warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling rapidly in the higher elevations of Southern Appalachia. We have seen this several times and it is really erie.
The Great Smokies are part of an International Biosphere Reserve. A biosphere reserve is an international conservation designation given by UNESCO under its Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). The World Network of Biosphere Reserves is the collection of all 531 biosphere reserves in 105 countries (as of May, 2008).
According to “The Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves,” biosphere reserves are created “to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere.” Under article 4, biosphere reserves must “encompass a mosaic of ecological systems,” and thus consist of combinations of terrestrial, coastal, or marine ecosystems.
Through appropriate zoning and management, the conservation of these ecosystems and their biodiversity is sought to be maintained.
The design of the reserve must include a legally protected core area, a buffer area where non-conservation activities are prohibited, and a transition zone where approved practices are permitted. This is done with regard for the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of local communities. This effort requires relevant research, monitoring, education and training. There are presently 393 biosphere reserves in 94 countries. Of these, 47 units are in the United States, of which 29 are managed by the National Park Service. Learn more http://usparks.about.com/library/weekly/aa032498.htm
The following is from http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/
Building the Parkway through mountainous terrain was a monumental labor. Authorized in the 1930s as a Depression-era public works project, the Parkway was more than a half-century in the making. It was the nation’s first, and ultimately longest, rural parkway, connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Enduring standards for parkway engineering and design were pioneered here.
The Appalachian Trail is a continuous marked footpath that goes from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, a distance of about 2160 miles. Learn more about this at www.appalachiantrail.org/