National Parkway

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National Parkways
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A National Parkway is a designation for a protected area in the United States. The designation is given to a scenic roadway and a protected corridor of surrounding parkland. National Parkways often connect cultural or historic sites.[1] The U.S. National Park Service manages the parkways.



The first parkways in the United States were developed in the late 19th century by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Beatrix Farrand as roads segregated for pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, and horse carriages, such as the Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. The terminology "parkway" to define this type of road was coined by Calvert Vaux and Olmsted in their proposal to link city and suburban parks with "pleasure roads." Newer roads such as the Bidwell and Lincoln Parkways in Buffalo, New York, were designed for automobiles and are broad and divided by large landscaped central medians. Parkways can be the approach to large urban parks, such as the Mystic Valley Parkway to Boston Common in Boston. Some separated express lanes from local lanes, though this was not always the case.

During the early 20th century, the meaning of the word was expanded to include controlled-access highways designed for recreational driving of automobiles with landscaping. These parkways originally provided scenic routes without at-grade intersections, very slow vehicles, or pedestrian traffic. Their success led to more development however, expanding a city's boundaries, eventually limiting their recreational driving use. The Arroyo Seco Parkway between Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena, California, is an example of lost pastoral aesthetics. It and others have become major commuting routes, while retaining the name parkway.

National parkways

In the 1930s, as part of the New Deal, the U.S. federal government constructed national parkways designed for recreational driving, and to commemorate historic trails and routes. As with other roads through national parks, these mostly undivided and two-lane parkways have lower speed limits, and are maintained by the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration jointly through the Federal Lands Transportation Program. An example is the Civilian Conservation Corps-built Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Others are: Skyline Drive in Virginia; John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in Wyoming, the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee; and the Colonial Parkway in eastern Virginia's Historic Triangle area.[2] The George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Clara Barton Parkway, running along the Potomac River near Washington, D.C., were also constructed during this era.


Four parkways are stand-alone units of the National Park System: Blue Ridge Parkway, George Washington Parkway, John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, and Natchez Trace Parkway.[3] Others are managed as part of another unit.

Name Length (mi) Length (km) Southern or western terminus Northern or eastern terminus Date Description Ref(s).
Baltimore–Washington Parkway 30.5 49.1 US 50 / MD 201 in Cheverly, MD Russell Street in Baltimore, MD December 1950 Original envisioned in Pierre Charles L'Enfant's original layout for Washington, DC, in the 18th century
Blue Ridge Parkway 469.1 754.9 US 441 in Swain County, NC US 250/Skyline Drive in Rockfish Gap, VA June 30, 1936 America's longest linear park; runs mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Continues past northern terminus as Skyline Drive. [4]
Clara Barton Parkway 6.8 10.9 MacArthur Boulevard in Carderock, MD Canal Road in Washington, DC 1930 Built as the Maryland portion of the George Washington Memorial Parkway
Colonial Parkway 23.0 37.0 Historic Jamestowne in Jamestown, VA SR 1020 in Yorktown, VA 1937 Links the three points of Virginia's Historic Triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown
Foothills Parkway 26.8 43.1 US 129 in Chilhowee, TN
US 321 near Walland, TN
US 321 in Cosby, TN
I-40 near Hartford, TN
February 22, 1944 Exists in two segments with a spur connecting to US 321 / US 441 in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
George Washington Memorial Parkway 24.9 40.1 SR 235 in Mount Vernon, VA
SR 400 in Alexandria, VA
SR 400 in Alexandria, VA
I-495 in Langley, VA
May 29, 1930 Exists in two segments; the northern one also passes through Washington, DC
John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway 27.0 43.5 North boundary of Grand Teton National Park West Thumb Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park August 25, 1972 Scenic road that connects the two national parks and named for John D. Rockefeller Jr., a conservationist and philanthropist
Natchez Trace Parkway 444.0 714.5 Liberty Road in Natchez, MS SR 100 in Nashville, TN May 8, 1938 Commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace and preserves sections of the original trail; also passes through Alabama
Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway 2.9 4.7 Lincoln Memorial Circle in the National Mall, Washington, DC Shoreham Drive / Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC 1944 Part of Rock Creek Park
Skyline Drive 105.5 169.8 US 250/Blue Ridge Parkway in Rockfish Gap, VA US 340 near Front Royal, VA 1939 Part of the Shenandoah National Park, continues past southern terminus as Blue Ridge Parkway
Suitland Parkway 9.1 14.6 I-295 / South Capitol Street in Washington, DC MD 4 in Forestville, MD December 9, 1944 Built to connect military facilities during World War II; connects to Andrews Air Force Base

The Great River Road was originally envisioned as a National Parkway.

See also


  1. ^ Staff. Learning About the National Park System and The National Park Service (PDF). National Park Service. p. 4. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  2. ^ Thornton, Tim & Howell, Isak. "Parkway's Past Haunts its Future". The Roanoke Times. Archived from the original on October 9, 2012.
  3. ^ "National Park System (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  4. ^ "Blue Ridge Parkway". The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

External links