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What is a National Scenic Byway?

Begun in 1996, the National Scenic Byway program was designed to protect and promote roads that are outstanding examples of scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archeological and/or natural qualities. Anyone may nominate a road for the program.

As of 2001, there were 72 roads in 32 states officially designated as part of the National Scenic Byways Program by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The Federal Highway Administration promotes and provides funding for the preservation and development of these roads.

There are six qualities that are considered for roads in the program. To be a National Scenic Byway, a road must excel in at least one of these qualities.


Archaeological quality involves those characteristics of the scenic byway corridor that are physical evidence of historic or prehistoric life that are visible and capable of being inventoried and interpreted.


Cultural quality is evidence and expressions of the customs or traditions of a distinct group of people. Cultural features include, but are not limited to, crafts, music, dance, rituals, festivals, speech, food, special events, and vernacular architecture that are currently practiced.


Historic quality encompasses legacies of the past that are distinctly associated with physical elements of the landscape, whether natural or manmade, that are of such historic significance that they educate the viewer and stir an appreciation of the past.


Natural quality applies to those features in the visual environment that are in a relatively undisturbed state. These features predate the arrival of human populations, and may include geological formations, fossils, landforms, water bodies, vegetation and wildlife.


Recreational quality involves outdoor recreational activities directly associated with, and dependent upon, the natural and cultural elements of the corridor's landscape.


Scenic quality is the heightened visual experience derived from the view of natural and manmade elements of the visual environment.

More information on the National Scenic Byway Program can be found at their website www.byways.org.