Discover Fun in the Copper Basin
Take a Trip Across the “Blue line” and visit the twin towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN
McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee, provide two states’ worth of food, fun, shopping and history — all in one adventure-packed corner of the mountains. Whether you’re traveling by road, rail or river, the Copper Basin is a great place to spend the day exploring.
Originally home to the Cherokee, the two rivers here still bear Native American names: Toccoa (meaning “beautiful”) and Ocoee (“apricot vines”). The historic steel truss bridge, built in 1911, marks the spot where the gentle-flowing Toccoa becomes the whitewater powerhouse Ocoee as it flows northward from Georgia into Tennessee. It also joins the two cities of McCaysville and Copperhill.
The locals call this area the Copper Basin due to its long history of copper mining. Copper was discovered in 1843 by a gold prospector panning in North Potato Creek. After that, mining for copper ore and sulphuric acid production became the primary industry through the late 1980s.
Although mining created a burst of wealth, it came with an environmental cost: Open smelting, timber harvesting and acid rain denuded the surrounding forest for 50 square miles. Following historic restoration efforts by the TVA and Tennessee Copper Company, the Copper Basin has regained much of its natural beauty. Today, it’s a source of pride as locals welcome visitors to enjoy the new restaurants, retail shops and rivers of fun.
Finding New Life
Since 2018, both towns have undergone a dramatic revitalization, and seen an influx of new stores, restaurants, entertainment — and visitors! — as a result. The steel bridge was powerwashed, and ongoing updates include installing new park benches and streetlights around town, upgrading landscaping, and adding copper mining artifacts and signage to share the area’s history with visitors. A 4-acre park along the Toccoa River with exercise equipment, walking paths and pavilions is also in the works.
Small businesses are doing their part to draw tourists and locals back to the area as well. For example, an entire city block of McCaysville (between Blue Ridge Drive & Bridge Street) has been completely renovated and turned into the delightful new Riverwalk Shops and TOONEYS Music Venue. The design of the mall captures the spirit of Copper Basin’s mining history. Inside, you’ll find three riverfront restaurants and lots of eclectic and unique boutique stores — offering plenty of places to eat, shop or just relax.
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, jewelry, artwork and gifts. Be sure to check the train’s website to learn more about several theme rides planned for the year.
Of course, you don’t have to ride the train to visit. To explore on your own, just hop in the car and make the quick 15-minute drive from Blue Ridge (10 miles via GA Hwy. 5) or Morganton (11 miles via GA Hwy. 60).
Area Fast Facts
McCaysville, GA, population = 1,353
Copperhill + Ducktown, TN, population = 1,652
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.
Long before the 1850s copper mining boom, the area was home to the Cherokee. The two rivers still bear Native American names: Toccoa (meaning “beautiful”) and Ocoee (meaning “apricot vines”).
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.
The Old Copper Road, constructed 1851-1853 and recently restored, connected the copper mines in the Copper Basin with the railhead in Cleveland, TN. Access the trail at the Ocoee Whitewater Center or the upper put-in.
9 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 once! The painted blue line runs from the IGA grocery store parking lot and diagonally across Toccoa Avenue/Ocoee Street. It even runs through the middle of some restaurants and shops, and across the old steel bridge.
#2: Fun Activities
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. Horseback riding can be found nearby at Blanche Manor, which specializes in trail rides and true cowboy adventures. At Deep Roots Orchard, you can experience old-timey Appalachia with campfires, farm tours, picnics, movies and music. Book a ride on The Copper Express mini-train for a tour of the area and visits to local attractions.
#3: Delicious Dining
Great restaurants are popping up all over the area. Inside the Riverwalk Shops, you can choose from three great options, all with covered riverside dining: Burra Burra on the River features craft beer, fine wines and classic American fare; the Twisted Tomato cooks up amazing pizza in a real Italian wood-fired oven; and Happy Bear Ice Cream & Treats kid-friendly faves like hot dogs and plenty of flavors of ice cream. Across the bridge, stop in the Rum Cake Lady Cuban Café for the best Cuban sandwiches, coffee and rum cakes this side of Miami.
#4: Great Shopping
Shopping has never been better in the Copper Basin! Inside McCaysville’s Riverwalk Shops, for example, you’ll find a full assortment of fun & trendy stores, including River Laurel Gifts & Boutique, The Pasta Shop, Mainstreet Mutt, Afrika Corner and Deaf Man Vinyl, plus second locations of Downtown Blue Ridge favorites Blue Ridge Adventure Wear and The Owl’s Nest.
Down the street, you’ll want to wander the aisles in Chooch, a fun store full of unique oddities and one-of-a-kind finds. Then walk across the bridge (and the blue line!) into Copperhill to check out Fat Raccoon Gallery for local art, souvenirs and provisions.
#5: Craft Breweries
Copperhill Brewery and Buck Bald Brewing, both in Copperhill, offer high-quality, diverse and exceptional-tasting craft beers. Try them both to find your favorite.
#6: Horseshoe Bend Park
Located on the Toccoa River, this is a favorite spot for picnics, fishing and relaxing. It’s also a popular take-out spot for tubing and kayaking. There are covered picnic shelters, a playground and restrooms. And from May through September, the park hosts “Pickin’ in the Park,” a gathering of musicians on Thursday evenings.
#7: Ducktown Basin Museum & Burra Burra Mine
Tour the historic Burra Burra mine and take a fascinating journey through 150 years of copper mining and the everyday life of the Tennessee Copper Company. The Ducktown Basin Museum features audiovisuals, artifacts, photographs and displays. A favorite stop is an old mine elevator, now in use as an observation platform overlooking a collapsed and flooded portion of the mine.
#8: Ocoee Whitewater Center
The Ocoee Whitewater Center was constructed specifically to host 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. It’s a great place for families to spend the day exploring and swimming.
#9: Whitewater Rafting
Be sure to ride the rapids for an unforgettable day on the world-famous Ocoee River. Rafting on this dam-controlled river happens spring through fall — weekends on the shoulder seasons and most days during the summer. Raft One and Ocoee Rafting are two of the premier area outfitters.
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.
Click on the image below to download a handy map of the Copper Basin area to help you get around.