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Encyclopedia: Blue Ridge

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Columbia University Press
Blue Ridge
eastern range of the Appalachian Mts., extending south from S Pa. to N Ga.; highest mountains in the E United States. Mt. Mitchell, 6,684 ft (2,037 m) high, is the tallest peak. Beginning with a narrow ridge in the north, c.10 mi (16 km) wide, the range broadens toward the south, reaching a maximum width of 70 mi (113 km) in North Carolina. Receiving much rain, the region is heavily forested; wood is the area's chief resource. The Blue Ridge was a barrier to the pioneers' westward movement. Numerous gaps cross the ridge; the gap at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was an important railroad traverse. Most of the people of the Blue Ridge live on small farms in sheltered valleys and retain traditional lifestyles and speech. Principal economic activities there include livestock raising, farming, tobacco growing, and lumber production. Commercial apple orchards are found in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The Blue Ridge is a major East Coast recreation area noted for its resorts and scenery. The Appalachian Trail winds atop the range. Skyline Drive, Va., following the crest of the Blue Ridge in Shenandoah National Park, has many roadside lookouts. The Blue Ridge Parkway (see National Parks and Monuments, table), designed especially for motor recreation, links the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mts. national parks.