Copper Basin: Two Towns, One Stop
8 reasons to visit the twin towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN
Two states’ worth of food, fun and shopping await you in one adventure-packed corner of the mountains. Whether you’re traveling by train or car, it’s a great place to spend the day!
The locals call this area the Copper Basin due to the long history of copper mining in the area. The historic steel truss bridge, built in 1911, marks the spot where the gentle-flowing Toccoa River becomes the whitewater powerhouse Ocoee River as it flows northward from Georgia into Tennessee. It also divides the two states and two cities (McCaysville in Georgia, Copperhill in Tennessee).
Ride the Rails (or Hop in the Car)
If you’re riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, these twin towns are the “end of the line” — the place where passengers disembark for a bite to eat and an amble through quaint shops filled with antiques, clothing, gifts and arts & crafts.
Of course, you don’t have to ride the train to visit the Copper Basin. To spend the whole day, just hop in the car and make the quick drive from Blue Ridge (it’s 10 miles via GA Hwy. 5) or Morganton (11 miles via GA Hwy. 60).
Copper Basin Finds New Life
The area is currently undergoing a revitalization effort, and seeing an influx of new stores and restaurants as a result. A group of locals and investors, for example, recently pressure-washed the bridge, and plans to install more than two dozen park benches around town.
Other improvements include new streetlights, landscaping, and copper mining artifacts and signage to share the area’s history with visitors. A 4-acre park with exercise equipment, walking paths and pavilions is also planned for the area
Small businesses are doing their part to draw tourists and locals back to the area. Meanwhile, the old mall was completely renovated and turned into the new Riverwalk Shops. Designed to capture the spirit of Copper Basin’s mining history, the individual stores were built within multiple conjoined structures, some dating back to the city’s earliest years. Reconstruction of the building stretching a full city block began in 2016.
Inside the Riverwalk Shops you’ll find three riverfront restaurants and 12 indoor boutique retail stores — offering plenty of possibilities to eat and shop, whether you come via train or car.
Area Fast Facts
McCaysville population = 996; Copperhill population = 511.
McCaysville, Copperhill & Ducktown are known collectively as the Copper Basin.
Copperhill & Ducktown were settled around 1843 when copper was discovered in the area. It was mined until the late 1980s.
Open smelting, timber harvesting and the release of harmful gases severely denuded the hills around Copperhill. In 1939, the TVA and the Tennessee Copper Company began a long-term reforesting project to help restore the area.
The Toccoa River flows north from Blue Ridge to McCaysville. As the Ocoee in Tennessee, it is known for challenging Class III & IV whitewater rafting rapids.
The Ocoee Whitewater Center off Hwy. 64 was the site of the 1996 Olympic Summer Games Canoe & Kayak Slalom competition.
8 Great Reasons to Visit the Copper Basin
#1: Blue Line Selfie
Take a “selfie” as you straddle the blue line and stand in two states at one time! The blue line runs from the Hometown Foods IGA grocery store parking lot across Toccoa/Ocoee Street, and marks the state line of Georgia and Tennessee.
#2: Great Shopping
Inside the Riverwalk Shops in McCaysville, there’s a full assortment of stores, including River Laurel Gifts & Boutique, and second locations of Downtown Blue Ridge favorites, Blue Ridge Adventure Wear and The Owl’s Nest. Just across the line in Copperhill you’ll find the unique Mountain Attitude Designs.
#3: Craft Breweries
Copperhill Brewery blends passion with profession, brewing high-quality, diverse and exceptional-tasting craft beers. Visit the taproom and experience the best in flavor and fellowship. Buck Bald Brewing aims for a fun, friendly atmosphere, while bringing award-winning IPAs, pale ales and other original craft beers to the tri-state area. Meanwhile, back in Georgia, the newest “brewer” in town is The Cider House, which uses only apples grown on its own small orchard to create signature hard ciders.
#4: Fun Activities
If you want that true old-fashioned apple-picking experience, Mountain View Orchards is your place. Call ahead to reserve your spot on the U-pick wagon, then fill your belly at the The Cider House Cafe with a homemade meal. While you’re there, don’t forget to grab a couple fried pies and other treats. For some high-flying adventure, it’s hard to beat Ocoee Canopy Tour, where you can zip, walk and climb through a scenic pine forest year-round.
#5: Horseshoe Bend Park
Located on the Toccoa River, this is a favorite spot for picnics, fishing and relaxing. There are several covered picnic shelters, a playground and restrooms. From May through September, the park hosts “Pickin’ in the Park,” a gathering of musicians on Thursday evenings.
#6: Ducktown Basin Museum & Burra Burra Mine
Tour the historic mine and take a fascinating journey through 150 years of copper mining and the everyday life of the Tennessee Copper Company. More details at ducktownbasinmuseum.com.
#7: Ocoee Whitewater Center
The OWC was specifically constructed for the 1996 Olympic Canoe and Kayak Slalom competitions. Today, this 4-acre recreation area includes a visitors center, environmental education programs, gift shop, hiking & biking trails, and waterplay area. Visit the US Forest Service for more details.
#8: Whitewater Rafting
Be sure to ride the rapids with Raft One for an unforgettable day on the world-famous Ocoee River. Rafting on this dam-controlled river happens on extended weekends through October 27. RaftOne will provide a wetsuit, and you’ll enjoy views of the changing leaves.
Cross the Line!
Be sure to stop in the McCaysville Visitor Center at 53 East Market Street to view historic pictures and exhibits, and find local information. And please visit our many Copper Basin advertisers while you’re there.