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Our History

McDowell County was named after Governor James McDowell in 1858. The county is located in the most southern part of the West Virginia coalfields. McDowell was best known in its golden years as the coal power source for our nation. It fueled the steel industry and was responsible for making weapons and ships that won WWII.  McDowell County has a vast and varied history with the coal and railway industry. McDowell County is made up of eight districts Adkin, Anawalt, Big Creek, Browns Creek, Elkhorn, Northfork, and Big Sandy. 

Major Andrew Lewis of the Lewis and Clarke Expedition camped in the town of Iaeger, WV on February 26, 1756, and it is listed on the national historic road markers. Present-day McDowell County is known for the setting of the "Rocket Boys" by Homer Hickam which was made into the movie "October Skies." This is the story about the Coalwood, WV boys whose innovations and aspirations in the art of rocket science gained the town national recognition.


Image Credit: By Russell Lee - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration


Our Present

McDowell County is now known for its rugged mountain terrain, ATV trails called the Indian Ridge Trail System, and the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.  These trailheads are open to ATVs, dirt bikes, selected utility vehicles, mountain bikes, horses, and hikers. Visitors can enjoy several wildlife reserves such as Panther Park Wildlife Management Area, Berwind Lake Wildlife Management Area, and the National Coal Heritage Area, a thirteen county area designated as a coal heritage history area by Congress and is listed with the National Park Service.  

Come and "Explore the Excitement and Enjoyment" of meandering the country roads of McDowell County, West Virginia and "enjoy life as it used to be."

Image Credit: AP Photo/Jon C. Hancock,

Welcome to Our Website

The Council of the Southern Mountains, a nonprofit social service agency in southern West Virginia, has developed this website to encourage tourists to visit the spectacular County of McDowell, in West Virginia. 

 The Council of the Southern Mountains tourism initiative purpose is to promote economic development alternatives through tourism in McDowell County, West Virginia.  As a result, the Council disseminates information on county-wide events, local activities, hotels, restaurants and points of interest through this website. By utilizing this site, visitors can receive information on "things to do" and "things to see" in one of the most unique places in the country. Visitors will be able to have the outdoor experiences of a lifetime in McDowell County as it is home to some of the best ATV trails in the U.S. Visitors will have no long lines of traffic with wonderful "out of the way" and "historic" places to visit.  So come and explore the excitement and enjoyment of "how life used to be" in McDowell County, WV.

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