The National Park Service has always balanced two goals: protecting the parks, and allowing visitors to enjoy them. What happens when parents try to show their child nature by coaxing a deer closer with food? How do we protect the park from the people and still provide the public with the recreation they want? First, visitors must learn how to take care of their parks. Here are some ways to make your visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway good for both you and the park. Many of these regulations are enforced with fines up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail. Preserving the environment is everyone’s job.
Drive defensively. The Parkway provides an open clearing that attracts wildlife, especially at dusk and dawn. The best thing that you can do to protect wildlife from your car (and your car from wildlife) is to be alert and slow down.
Keep your pet on a leash. This is as much to protect your pet as the wildlife. When a loose pet chases a squirrel or raccoon, the wild animal’s ability to survive is threatened, and it may react aggressively.
Never feed any wildlife, even by accident. Leaving food on picnic tables or throwing trash in the woods teaches wild animals to raid your campsites. Hand-feeding the deer is even worse, because it teaches wildlife to approach humans. The deer or raccoon that eats from your hand this summer may starve this winter because it has forgotten how to find its own food. In addition, a tame deer is easy prey for poachers.
Picking wildflowers is prohibited. It might seem like a small matter to let your child pick a handful of daisies, but if everyone did this, soon there would be no daisies to enjoy. The same rule applies to the gathering of chestnuts, since the chestnut is an endangered species. The cutting of ginseng and Paulownia is also illegal, but other edible plants may be collected for personal consumption only.
As a rule, the speed limit on the Parkway is 45 mph, except in developed areas and near major intersections, where it drops to 35 mph. Traveling at faster speeds might cause you to miss a hairpin curve, or hit an animal, cyclist, or pedestrian. Motorcycling the Blue Ridge Parkway is enjoyable, but we have more than our share of motorcycle accidents, many times because the operator is not careful enough in negotiating the winding, frequent curves.
Accidents must be reported. If you are in an accident, or witness one, you must report it to a ranger as soon as possible. If a ranger is not in sight, call 1-800-PARKWATCH and report it to the operators. Remember, hitting an animal with your vehicle is considered as much of an accident as two vehicles colliding.
Road closed signs must be taken seriously. If you are traveling on the Parkway during the winter months, you will likely encounter portions of the road that are closed due to winter ice and snow. Even if the road ahead looks clear, you should never attempt to drive on any closed section of the Parkway. Steep overhangs can cause icy patches to remain long after snows elsewhere have melted.
Rules & regulations for campers may be found on our Camping page.
Open containers of alcohol in a vehicle or in a public place are prohibited, except in designated picnic areas, campgrounds, and concessioner-operated locations. Drinking and driving is taken very seriously in national parks.
Hunting is not allowed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Like any national park, the Parkway is managed as a preserve for wildlife. No hunting is allowed, and all types of weapons from slingshots to shotguns are carefully controlled.
As of February 22, 2010, a new federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws to legally possess firearms in this park. It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering the park. Federal law also prohibits firearms in certain facilities; those places are marked with signs at all public entrances. Check state regulations for Virginia or North Carolina to make certain of your compliance while in the park.
Spotlighting is illegal. This is one of the more commonly broken laws in national parks because visitors often see no harm in briefly turning their headlights on a group of deer at night. However, this does disturb the deer and can easily be mistaken for attempted poaching.