Linn Cove Viaduct
Driving the Linn Cove Viaduct is one of those rare experiences in the eastern mountains: America’s bony shoulder out one window, seemingly limitless space out the other. But only by stopping to examine its underside do you realize the true magnitude of the project.
Completed in 1987, the Viaduct remains one of the most elegant solutions to an environmentally formidable problem, yet designed by the hand of man. This section of roadway, which seems suspended in midair as it hugs the southern face of Grandfather Mountain, was the centerpiece of the last 7.5-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be completed.
And for good reasons.
The problem: how to design and build a roadway at an elevation of 4,100 feet without permanently disfiguring one of the best-loved landmarks of the Southern Appalachians. Ultimately, in order to avoid the cuts and fills associated with conventional road construction, engineers devised a way to build the 1,243 ft. long S-curve from the top down. Incredibly, the only construction that occurred at ground level involved the seven massive piers that support the structure.
So sensitive were the project engineers to the structures of environmental design that the only trees cut were those directly beneath the roadway. Even the concrete was pigmented to harmonize with the natural aspect of Grandfather’s craggy face.
The approach to the Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway is half the fun. From Rte. 321 in Blowing Rock, drive south on the Parkway. A perfect photo spot is pristine Price Lake in Julian Price Park. As you continue south, the Parkway ascends past spectacular overlooks and cascading mountain streams which rush down Grandfather’s furrowed cheek. Then, at milepost 304.6, the roadway begins a sweeping curve to the left that seems to head into space. You have arrived.
Be sure to stop at the parking spot at the other end of the Viaduct to view the structure from below. From Beacon Heights just beyond, the 13.5 mile Tanawha Trail leads back to Price Lake for the ambitious traveler. The Linn Cove Viaduct is also approachable via the Blue Ridge Parkway from U.S. Hwy 221 in Linville, NC.
added: December 30, 2008
updated: February 17, 2011