Touring Mercer County with Native Trailblazer Joshua Parks

Last updated: August 30, 2021

Known for its chiseled trails, vivid landscapes and rich assortment of flora and fauna, Mercer County is a haven for outdoor and off-road enthusiasts alike. But for those who prefer to venture off the beaten path and explore the terrain, however, the county is also home to some of the east coast’s most unique sights. 

As spring turns to summer, Appalachia native, Joshua Parks, said he hopes residents take time to visit the southern county’s views. 

“We have several spectacular waterfalls,” Parks said. “Brush Creek Falls is the nicest. It’s about 20 feet, and it’s visited by a lot of people.”

Additionally, the county itself is also home to more than 150 species of native birds, Parks said.

According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the state is home to the world’s largest population of cerulean warblers. Despite the species’ global population decline, the birds thrive in the Mountain State – particularly in Mercer County. 

“Pinnacle Rock has a few breeding cerulean warblers,” Parks said. “They require mature forest, low undergrowth, and those [conditions] are few and far between. Once an area is cut, selective or clear, it negates a habitat for them to breed. You can usually find them there.”

The local golden-winged warblers, he added, prefer opposite conditions. 

“They’re a species of concern, and they’re found in Mercer in clear cuts with secessional growth,” Parks said. “They tend to go on old timber jobs, but never on reclaimed strip jobs that I’ve seen. My favorite is the hooded warble, though, and they’re mostly southern, but we have them in spades.”

Parks said his favorite views, however, are of the native wildflowers that bloom between April and May. He said several Carolina Lilies, which are predominantly southern flowers, were discovered in Mercer County in 2018.  

“To my knowledge, Mercer [County] is the northernmost region for the lily,” Parks said. “It could be in McDowell County, but no one has found them yet. We found 13 to 14. They’re not extraordinarily special, but they tend to be in higher elevations.”

In all of his travels, Parks said he’s never found an environment quite like his native state of West Virginia. 

“I love Appalachia,” Parks said. “I like the whole ecosystem here. I’ve hiked out west, fished up north. I love it here. Mercer [County] has a lot to offer if people take the time to look.”