November 2014 Update: Devil's Courthouse Tunnel Closed
Blue Ridge Parkway officials announce the closure of a small section of motor road between existing gates at Milepost 420.3 near US Forest Service Road 816 (Black Balsam Road) and Milepost 423.3 at NC Highway 215. Both lanes of the motor road in that section will be closed to all visitors beginning November 3, 2014 through May 2015.
During this closure, Devil’s Courthouse Overlook at Milepost 422.4 will be accessible from the south by foot, bicycle or skis at NC Highway 215. The Art Loeb Trail crossing at Milepost 421.2 will be accessible from the north at Black Balsam Road. Visitors inside the closure are encouraged to use extreme caution and watch for construction related traffic also in the area.
Devil’s Courthouse Tunnel was originally constructed in 1941. This project will make repairs to the aging drainage system and concrete lining inside the tunnel. The work requires that portions of the overhead concrete lining be removed, creating potentially hazardous conditions for visitors that require a full road closure. The tunnel will be sealed and inaccessible to any traffic during this project.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is recognized internationally as an example of landscape design achievement and Parkway tunnels are a significant design feature along the historic route. Twenty-five of the twenty-six tunnels along the Parkway are in North Carolina, with all Parkway tunnels representing 36% of the entire National Park Service tunnel inventory. Tunnels along the Parkway were often constructed to reduce excessive scarring that open cuts would entail, enabling the Parkway to cross through ridges in the interest of maintaining the most desirable route location. The distinctive stone masonry portals on most Parkway tunnels were generally not part of the original construction, added later in the 1950s and 1960s.
For emergencies on the Blue Ridge Parkway, call 1-800-PARKWATCH. See a real-time map of which sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are open!
Spring 2015: Saving Hemlocks
This spring, work crews will suit up and go to the rescue of eastern and Carolina Hemlock trees infested by the woolly adelgid, a tiny invasive insect striking down these majestic trees. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation received a grant from the Hemlock Restoration Initiative to collaborate with the National Park Service to help save these disappearing trees which are native to North Carolina. The funding will allow the chemical treatment of trees near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Avery, Haywood, Transylvania, and Watauga counties in North Carolina. Without intervention, woolly adelgid infestations can claim trees within a few years. While treatment crews work, Southwestern NC Resource Conservation & Development Council, based at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, is working to create a hybrid hemlock species that will be resistant to the aphid-like insect. The Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council also is expanding its program to release a natural predator, the Laricobius nigrinus beetle native to the Pacific Northwest, which can eat six or more adelgids per day. So far, the program has seen success in the Grandfather Mountain area.