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Interacting with Wildlife and Taking Care of Native Plants

What to know about native plant and animal species

The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than a road – it’s a journey! The Parkway has unique habitats that support rare and endangered plants and animals. Many species of animals and plants make their homes along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Visit NC Smokies: Haywood County Elk

A Blue Ridge Parkway visit may seem incomplete without the glimpses of white tailed deer, wild turkey, and perhaps a chance to see the elusive black bear.

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Preserving Wildlife Habitat

Make a difference during your visit on behalf of the plant and wildlife species by observing the following tips:

  • The best diet for all animals is a natural one. Human food can make any wild animal sick. The digestive system of a white tail deer, common around campgrounds and picnic areas, only breaks down the natural food sources including twigs, bark, leaves, grasses and acorns. Wild animals like the taste of human food, but for their safety and health, do not feed them.
  • Rabies can be transmitted by most wild animals. Animals in the park should not be treated as pets or lured close enough to feed or touch. If a squirrel, chipmunk, or other animal comes close without your encouragement, it could be a sign of serious illness, please tell a ranger.
  • All plants growing on the Blue Ridge Parkway are protected. Many of our native wildflowers in the Blue Ridge are threatened by illegal harvesting. Historically, the evergreen leaves of Galax were gathered commercially in the southern Appalachian mountains for floral arrangements, but were over-harvested. Poaching this or any other plant on the Blue Ridge Parkway is prohibited.


Parkway Habitats
Protecting the Biodiversity of Plant and Animal Life

Many native plants on the Blue Ridge Parkway are threatened by foot traffic. The problem can be alleviated by the simple practice of staying on the trail.

There are several especially sensitive areas, including the Tanawha Trail around Grandfather Mountain, the Craggy Pinnacle Trail at Craggy Gardens, and at Devil’s Courthouse. Whether you suspect the presence of rare plants or not, please stay on the trail – if for no other reason than to protect all plants and to prevent erosion.

Grass of Parnassus

Blooms and Foliage

The wide range in elevation offers a tremendous variety of wildflowers during spring, summer, and fall months. While the summer wildflowers are blooming in the valleys, the spectacular spring wildflowers are just beginning to bloom on the high peaks.

Carolina Lily

Carolina Lily, Photo by Alex Armstrong

The same environmental variability that leads to such spectacular bloom displays in the spring and summer also contributes to autumn leaf color. Throughout the month of October the leaf color changes gradually, beginning in the high mountains and concluding at the lower slopes and valleys.


Streams, ponds and rivers give anglers a chance to try their luck for trout and, in some waters, bass and panfish. A state fishing license is required. Creel limits and other regulations vary. Inquire at visitor centers or Ranger stations.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smokies

Streams and lakes on the Blue Ridge Parkway are game fish waters for which Federal Regulations set forth in Title 36, Sections 2.3 and 7.34(b) of the Code of Federal Regulations are in effect.

Except in designated areas or as provided in Federal Regulations, fishing shall be in accordance with the laws and regulations of the state in which the water is located.

Waters that are not named in the “Special Waters” section in the Fishing Regulations section are subject to State General Fishing Regulations.

Best suggestion when fishing in Parkway waters is to contact the local ranger for special regulations/rules that apply to that specific fishing area for bait type, limits, etc. Regulations are normally posted at each Parkway fishing area, but they are different from place to place.

License & Regulations

Fishing is allowed in Parkway waters with a valid state fishing license from either North Carolina or Virginia. No special trout stamp or license is needed and persons under age 16 can fish without a license when accompanied by a licensed adult. Only single hook, artificial lures may be used in most Parkway waters. Digestible baits, except unpreserved fish eggs or live baits other than earthworms, are allowed in designated waters. Fishing is not permitted from footbridges, dams or adjacent walls. In trout waters, regulations are posted at the stream bank and are in effect for that stream only. On all Parkway waters, fishing is allowed from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. Digging for bait on Parkway land is not allowed. Be aware that many streams meander onto U.S. Forest Service or private land and regulations will vary as the jurisdiction changes.


The fishing season and hours shall conform to those established by the State except that fishing is prohibited one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise on all Parkway waters.

Creel and Size Limits

Creel and size limits shall conform to those established by the State unless the water is listed in the “Special Waters” section. Limits for “Special Waters” are posted at each lake shore or stream bank.

Special Waters

North Carolina

Basin Creek and its tributaries in Doughton Park, Boone Fork, Cold Prong Branch, Laurel Creek, Sims Creek, and Camp Creek.


Abbott Lake, Little Stoney Creek, and Otter Lake.

Fishing is not permitted from the dam at Price Lake or from the footbridge in the Price Lake picnic area, or from the James River Bridge.

Closed Waters

Bee Tree Creek, a tributary of Boone Fork, is closed for research purposes.

Bait and Lures

General Waters:

  • The possession or use of live or dead fish, amphibians, or non-preserved fish eggs is prohibited while on or along any Parkway water.
  • Digging for natural bait on Parkway land is prohibited.
  • Use of bait, other than listed above, on waters classified as “General Waters” shall conform to regulations established by the State.

Special Waters:

  • The possession or use as bait of insects, worms, live or dead fish or fish parts, or other organic bait is prohibited while adjacent to, on, or in streams or lakes classified as “Special Waters.”
  • North Carolina:  Fishing lures are limited to single-hook artificial lures in all “Special Waters” with the following exceptions; in Basin Creek and its tributaries and Boone Fork River from Price Lake Dam downstream to the Parkway boundary, the use of lures other than single-hook artificial flies is prohibited.
  • Virginia: Fishing lures are limited to single-hook artificial lures.

Additional information about fishing Parkway waters can be found on the NPS BLRI website here.


Please note that swimming is prohibited on the Parkway. Several nearby state parks and national forests have developed swimming areas.

Related Info

More Parkway Travel Tips