The 469-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway captures some of the best overlooks, trails and views the Appalachian Mountains have to offer, but when tourists misbehave, it ruins it for everyone. The most recent actions by misinformed visitors are causing a popular section of the roadway to close.
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According to Blue Ridge Parkway officials, they have multiple reports of visitors feeding and attempting to pick up a young bear in the area at Lane Pinnacle Overlook. As a result, “we can’t have nice things.” The route is now closed from mile 367.6 near Craggy Gardens Picnic Area to mile 375.6 at Ox Creek Road. That section is northeast of Asheville, North Carolina, and includes the closure of a visitor center.
“We are closing this section of the road temporarily for the safety of both the bear and park visitors,” said Superintendent Tracy Swartout in a social media post. “When people intentionally attract bears with trash and food, it can lead to very dangerous situations. In this instance, we want to give the bear a chance to lose interest in the area before the situation escalates and visitors or the bear are harmed.”
Officials say visitors trying to reach the Craggy Gardens recreation area can still take NC80 from the north. However, there is no timeline to reopen the roadway.
Visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited site in the National Park Service system. Fall is especially busy for the parkway as the mountains running through North Carolina and Virginia turn vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. Millions of visitors will make the drive to see the leaves change.
Besides photo opportunities of leaves, fall is also a critical time of year for bears who are working towards hibernation. The animals must eat as much as possible to fatten up for their long nap. However, feeding bears causes habitation, meaning bears lose their natural fear of people. In many of these situations, officials are forced to euthanize bears.
Want to get closer to wildlife? Try a pair of binoculars.