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The Blue Ridge, or Blue Ridge Mountains, is a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountainsmarker range. This province consists of northern and southern physiographic regions, which divide near the Roanoke Rivermarker gap. The mountain range is located in the eastern United Statesmarker, starting at its southern-most portion in Georgiamarker, then ending northward in Pennsylvaniamarker. To the west of the Blue Ridge, between it and the bulk of the Appalachians, lies the Great Appalachian Valley, bordered on the west by the Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachian range.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are noted for their bluish color when seen from a distance. Trees put the "blue" in Blue Ridge, from the isoprene released into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to the characteristic haze on the mountains and their distinctive color.

Within the Blue Ridge province are two major national parks: the Shenandoah National Parkmarker in the northern section and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parkmarker in the southern section. The Blue Ridge also contains the Blue Ridge Parkwaymarker, a long scenic highway that connects the two parks and is located along the ridge crestlines along the Appalachian Trail.


See also: List of mountains of the Blue Ridge
Although the term "Blue Ridge" is sometimes applied exclusively to the eastern edge or front range of the Appalachian Mountains, the geological definition of the Blue Ridge province extends westward to the Ridge and Valley area, encompassing the Great Smoky Mountains, the Great Balsams, the Roansmarker, the Brushy Mountains (a "spur" of the Blue Ridge) and other mountain ranges.

The Blue Ridge extends as far north into Pennsylvaniamarker as South Mountain. While South Mountain dwindles to mere hills between Gettysburgmarker and Harrisburgmarker, the band of ancient rocks that forms the core of the Blue Ridge continues northeast through the New Jerseymarker and Hudson River highlands, eventually reaching The Berkshiresmarker of Massachusettsmarker and the Green Mountains of Vermontmarker.

The Blue Ridge contains the highest mountains in eastern North America. About 125 peaksexceed in elevation. The highest peak in the Blue Ridge (and in the entire Appalachian chain) is Mt.marker Mitchellmarker in North Carolinamarker at . There are 39 peaks in North Carolina and Tennessee higher than ; by comparison, only New Hampshiremarker's Mt.marker Washingtonmarker rises above in the northern portion of the Appalachian chain.

The Blue Ridge Parkwaymarker runs 469 miles (750 km) along crests of the Southern Appalachians and links two national parks: Shenandoahmarker and Great Smoky Mountainsmarker. In many places along the parkway, there are metamorphic rocks (gneiss) with folded bands of light-and dark-colored minerals, which sometimes look like the folds and swirls in a marble cake.


Most of the rocks that form the Blue Ridge Mountains are ancient granitic charnockites, metamorphosed volcanic formations, and sedimentary limestones. Recent studies completed by Richard Tollo, a professor and geologist at George Washington Universitymarker, provide greater insight into the petrologic and geochronologic history of the Blue Ridge basement suites. Modern studies have found that the basement geology of the Blue Ridge is made of compositionally unique gneisses and granitoids, including orthopyroxene-bearing charnockites. Analysis of zircon minerals in the granites completed by John Aleinikoff at the U.S. Geological Survey has provided more detailed emplacement ages.

Many of the features found in the Blue Ridge and documented by Tollo and others have confirmed that the rocks exhibit many similar features in other North American Grenville-age terranes. The lack of a calc-alkaline affinity and zircon ages less than 1,200 Ma suggest that the Blue Ridge is distinct from the Adirondacks, Green Mountains, and possibly the New York-New Jersey Highlands. The petrologic and geochronologic data suggest that the Blue Ridge basement is a composite orogenic crust that was emplaced during several episodes from a crustal magma source. Field relationships further illustrate that rocks emplaced prior to 1,078-1,064 Ma preserve deformational features. Those emplaced post-1,064 Ma generally have a massive texture and missed the main episode of Mesoproterozoic compression.

The Blue Ridge Mountains began forming during the Silurian Period over 400 million years ago. Approx. 320 mya, North America and Europe collided, pushing the Blue Ridges up higher.


The English who settled Virginiamarker in the early 1600s recorded that the native Powhatan name for the Blue Ridge was Quirank.

At the foot of the Blue Ridge, various tribes including the Sioux Manahoacs, the Iroquois, and the Shawnee hunted and fished. As more settlers moved into Virginia, their economic and at times martial competition pushed the native inhabitants west.

Flora and fauna

Musical references

See also


  • Olson, Ted (1998). Blue Ridge Folklife, University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-023-0.

External links

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