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Gastonia North Carolina is the largest city in Gaston County and its county seat. Gastonia is a branch of the municipality of Charlotte. Gastonia covers about thirteen percent of Gaston County with approximately 46 square miles of land. Parkdale Mills is the largest producer of spun yard internationally. This small mill first opened in 1916. This was a very prosperous business until the Great Depression of 1929. Many local mills merged Parkdale Mills was not one of those participating in the merger. At 14, Duke Kimbrell became an errand boy for the mill. Eventually he became the President and CEO of the company. Business at Parkdale flourished with his supervision. Duke Kimbrell successfully made Parkdale Mills the biggest independent manufacturer of cotton yarn in the United States. Parkdale now owns 27 plants. Wix Filtration Corporation, Freightliner LLC, Stabilus, Danaher Tool Group and Curtiss-Wright are other manufacturing companies in Gastonia. The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is just outside of Gastonia has 380 acres with a well maintained half-mile woodland trail perfect for exploring the spectacular woodlands and pine forest that cover a large part of the property. There are twelve luminous fountains, lavish gardens, and an orchid conservatory that is dedicated to exhibiting tropical plants. In the fall, the butterflies that visit this garden are breathtaking. A short distance from town is the US National Whitewater Center that is used for whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking. The center consists of 307 acres of land next to the Catawba River and is open to the public. Here you will see the most intricate reproduction of a recycled whitewater river designed by Scott Shipley. Crowder's Mountain State Park is another must see in the area with over two thousand acres to be explored. This beautiful monadnock mountain has several hiking trails going to the peak. The mountain is a popular place for avid rock climbing because of the sharp cliffs that drop off the mountain.