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Wildlife Watching at Trough Creek State Park

Natural History

Trough Creek State Park is in the Valley and Ridge Province of the Appalachian Mountains. Once a great mountain range, weathering and running water reduced the Appalachians into long, narrow, sweeping ridges. Great Trough Creek carved away at the ridges creating the unique geologic features seen today. The gorge is still undergoing slow geologic changes as Great Trough Creek continues to erode the valley.

Detailed information about Balanced Rock and Ice Mine is available from the:

Trail of Geology - Trough Creek State Park Guide (PDF)

Ice Mine

While building a railroad line, workers likely discovered cold air flowing from the mountain side, a natural refrigerator. During the 1930s, the CCC developed the site as one of three tourist ice mine sites in the state.

In winter, cold air diffuses into spaces between the rocks of the hillside. In spring and summer, cold air flows down through the spaces between the rocks and into Ice Mine.

During the past, this caused snowmelt and moisture in the air to refreeze in the entrance of Ice Mine. Today, little ice forms in Ice Mine, likely because the stone wall around Ice Mine blocks the snowmelt. During the spring and summer, visitors can still experience the chill of winter by stepping down into Ice Mine.

Balanced Rock

This huge boulder is perched on the edge of a cliff, looking ready to fall off at any moment into Great Trough Creek far below. Balanced Rock, an “erosion remnant,” has hung there for thousands of years. The rock was once part of a cliff with layers of hard and soft rocks. Soft rocks below Balanced Rock eroded away first, easing Balanced Rock into its current position.

All of the other rocks of the cliff eroded away or fell over the cliff, leaving only Balanced Rock. To preserve the natural beauty of Balanced Rock, please do not spray paint or vandalize any natural features.

Copperas Rocks

Copperas Rocks is named for the coppery-yellow stain on the cliff surface. The crystalline, yellow precipitate is ferrous sulfate that leaches from a small pocket of coal. Although this substance is one of the main pollutants in abandoned mine drainage, the small quantity here is not harmful to the stream. Early settlers possibly used ferrous sulfate as a mordant for setting the dye color in cloth.

Rainbow Falls

The waters of Abbot Run cascade in a lovely waterfall that is easily viewed from Abbot Run Trail. The waterfall is best viewed during the early spring and after a heavy rain.

Wildlife Watching

Trough Creek Drive is a great place to see woodland birds, like:

  • Scarlet tanager
  • Veery
  • Waterthrush
  • Nuthatch
  • Vireo
  • Wood-pewee
  • Chickadee
  • Pileated woodpecker

Hiking trails are avenues to see spring wildflowers and hear or see spring warblers. Trails are lined with mountain laurel, which blooms during mid-June, and rhododendron, which blooms during early July.

Copperhead, timber rattlesnake, and five-lined skink can often be found sunning on rock outcrops throughout the park. Skinks also sun on the old dam.

Black bear, white-tailed deer, and turkey are often seen along Little Valley Road, just before entering the park.

Osprey and bald eagles often fish Great Trough Creek, especially at the northern end of the park.