Citizen Science at Dunn’s Mountain

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Greenspace

At roughly 1,004 feet above sea elevation, you can get a great glimpse of Rowan County. On a clear day, we can see beyond Rowan County to the surrounding mountains: Pilot mountain, the Blue Ridge mountains, and Grandfather Mountain are a few. Skyscrapers are visible in the distance in Charlotte, NC. A plethora of water towers are visible from surrounding regions.

“Where is this place?”, you may be wondering. Dunn’s Mountain, the second-highest elevation in Rowan County (following Young’s Mountain at 1,089 feet) is currently open to the public Friday and Saturday from 11:30 AM to 8:00 PM, and Sunday from 12:30 PM to 8:00 PM. Seasonal hours are located in the following link.

This location is definitely worth a visit before it gets chilly out and is a diamond of our beloved county. Dunn’s mountain is plentiful in plant biodiversity commonly found in higher elevations. I was able to test Seek, an app by INaturalist that helps people identify plants, fungus, and animals using smartphone and Apple products. The app is a great asset to any outdoor adventure.

Attire & Recommended Activities

On a warm day, I would recommend wearing shorts and a t-shirt. If it is starting to cool down, I would also recommend bringing a light jacket with you, especially since it can get pretty windy at the peak! With the temperature being 87 degrees Fahrenheit on the day of my visit, I was perfectly comfortable in a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes. Since most of the trail is paved, I would recommend wearing tennis shoes. But, if you plan on going on the boulders that are placed at the peak, boots work too.

This location is perfect for a picnic, photography shoot, and getting some fresh air! The trail is relatively easy to walk and gets steep in a few spots. The walk itself takes about fifteen minutes if you maintain a moderately paced ascent. If you are looking for a difficult trek, I would not recommend this particular trail to you.

The trailhead starts at a parking lot where public restrooms are located. There are some reminders posted about respecting the park and nature within it. Please keep these in mind as this is an important ecosystem for many creatures and plants!

I began my ascent and first noticed a persimmon tree to my left with ripe fruits weighing the branches and rotting fruits on the ground. Persimmons are great for jams and fruit salads and are also native to North Carolina! Due to the persimmon tree located behind the fence and out of reach, it is best to leave it for the wildlife there.

I continued my journey up Dunn’s mountain. I had just gotten off of a long day at work and it was the perfect location to wind down. What’s better than identifying plants and listening to some tunes? A common plant that I accurately identified using Seek was Hedwigia ciliata, also known as Hedwig’s Fringeleaf Moss. It is commonly found on rocks in the majority of North America. I don’t want to spoil all of the identification fun!

About Seek

To test the app out, I started with a plant that I could easily identify. Ailanthus altissima (ay·lan·thuhs al·tuh·see·muh), also known as the “Tree of Heaven ”. The app was able to accurately identify the common and invasive tree species! The identification was then saved to my observations list, functioning as a field notebook.

Seek documents all of the species that you identify through your account. Species range from fungi to amphibians and are documented in a large, collective database. This is important to scientists because they can use this information to track the range of a variety of species. We are helping them out by functioning as citizen field researchers… I find this fact thrilling!

So, the next time you pass a plant, animal, or fungi and want to know what it is or possible benefits/effects, Seek is one step in the right direction. Sometimes, when you identify your species, it only reaches a certain level of specificity. The more observations we make, the more refined the identification will be for others.

Here are some additional notes while using this app:

  • Focus your camera on the plant as much as you can.
  • Just because the app has identified something does not mean that the app is correct!
  • Always double-check and research after using Seek so you can ensure that it is an accurate I.D.
  • Be mindful of how taking the picture will affect the state of the natural ecosystem. Make sure your flash is off, you are not harming the organism or its natural habitat.


While visiting county parks, be mindful of your footprint and conscious of your place on the trail. If you stop by, make sure to visit the faculty and staff. They look forward to visitors and are open to having a friendly conversation with anyone! I always feel comfortable and welcome at Dunn’s Mountain and it has been one of my favorite destinations to visit in Rowan County. I look forward to seeing you there!

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About The Author

Madison Kluge

You might see me on the city of Salisbury’s greenways sporting a pair of rainbow roller skates! I officially graduate(d) May 2021 from the Environment & Sustainability program at Catawba College and I have/will soon take on the role as Salisbury’s Sustainability Coordinator. At Catawba, I researched the Emerald Ash Borer for a couple of years, spearheaded campus composting, and became heavily involved with environmental education planning. My goal as a connector is to establish a non-formal greenspace pedagogy with you and navigate the great outdoors by engaging with a variety of local farmers, NPO’s, parks, trails, preserves, educational institutions, and sustainable events. I will also explore available technologies/ apps that enhance our experience of the great outdoors in plant and animal identification and citizen science initiatives. To my fellow nature and environmental enthusiasts: get to know Rowan County better with me in the evolving greenspaces. Let’s get dirt under our nails!