Parker, “America’s smallest city,” is located along the scenic Allegheny River in Western Pennsylvania. The forested hills and clear streams and the natural beauty of the surrounding area provide residents and visitors alike with year-round outdoor recreation.
Hikers entering Parker from the southwest travel through PA State Gamelands 95. The North Country Trail Trail exits the gamelands along a right-of-way which connects via Bruin Road to Jackson Street for a one-mile road walk to SR-268 in Parker.
The area was settled in 1819, the city was named for Judge John Parker, the surveyor of Lawrenceburg and founder of Parker’s Landing. The two villages were later combined to form Parker. The oil boom reached the area in 1865 and by 1869 there were over 1,000 wells in the area. The population swelled to from 1,000 to 20,000 with another 5,000 living in boats along the Allegheny River. This brought immense prosperity to the area and in 1873 the City of Parker was incorporated. The wells began to run dry by 1878 and a disastrous fire gutted the waterfront in 1879. The booming city shrunk back to 1,000 over a 10-year period thus earning its title as America’s smallest city.
The Bear Creek Pump Station south of town was built in 1879, the nation’s largest for a time, and operated until 1974. It connected the 21 lines supplying the East with the mid-continent oil fields to the West. The major industry today is UFP Parker, a leading, single-source supplier of industrial packaging, concrete forming products, lumber and other wood products. UFP Parker is part of the Universal Forest Products family of companies that supplies composite and non-wood products to three markets: retail, construction and industrial. Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Universal’s culture is rooted in Midwestern values of hard work, honesty, and a roll-up-your-sleeves determination. Today Parker provides services to its residents and visitors. There are three restaurants, a bakery, a market with gas pumps, and a hotel and a post office. The city has a riverside park, a canoe and boat launch area, and a large city park and recreation fields off Wabash Avenue.
PA State Gamelands 95 consists of 9,962 acres in six separate tracts. Here the hiker will be treated with rushing streams, rock formations, hemlock covered hillsides, Bear Creek Gorge and unique wooden bridges – all overlaid with historic remnants from the oil boom. The North Country Trail winds three scenic miles along the Bear Creek Valley crossing at the Dead Crow Bridge and the Bears Mouth Bridge. Trailheads are along El Dorado Road, Route 268, and Jackson Avenue in Parker. The canoe and boat launch offer parking and recreational access to the Allegheny River, which flows 325 miles from New York State to Pittsburgh. Fishing, boating and paddling are popular activities on the Allegheny. Launch upstream at Foxburg or Emlenton, and float down to Parker and explore the Clarion River which flows into the Allegheny a mile upstream. A paved biking/hiking trail runs three miles along the east side of the Allegheny River past the mouth of the Clarion River to Foxburg. Foxburg features a hotel overlooking the river, the Allegheny Grille, a winery, library and other shops. The trail continues north from Emlenton to Franklin where it intersects with the Sandy Creek Trail. The Samuel Justus Trail continues north through Oil City and on to Oil Creek State Park and Titusville, home of the Drake Well and museum.
The Butler County Chapter is responsible for the North Country Trail section through Parker.
- Allegheny Valley Trails Associations
- Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau
- PA State Gamelands 95 Topo Map
Header photo by Dave Adams