Copper Basin: Two Towns, One Stop
9 reasons to “Cross the 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.
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 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, copper ore mining became the primary industry through the late 1980s.
Although mining created a burst of wealth, it came with an environmental cost: Acid rain denuded the surrounding forest for 50 square miles. Following historic restoration efforts, the Copper Basin has regained much of its natural beauty. Today, it’s a source of great pride as locals welcome visitors to enjoy the restaurants, retail 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 with exercise equipment, walking paths and pavilions is also planned.
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 has been completely renovated and turned into the delightful, new Riverwalk Shops. The design captures the spirit of Copper Basin’s mining history. Inside, you’ll find three riverfront restaurants and several boutique retail stores — offering plenty of possibilities to eat, shop or just relax. A massive new indoor music venue is also in the process of being added.
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 spend a 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).
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.
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.
#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 burgers; the Twisted Tomato cooks up amazing pizza in a real Italian wood-fired oven; and Happy Bear Café offers breakfast, kid-friendly hot dogs, and cool ice cream treats.
#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, and second locations of Downtown Blue Ridge favorites Blue Ridge Adventure Wear and The Owl’s Nest.
#5: 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 fellowship and flavor, with an assortment of more than a dozen brews regularly on tap. A second location, with on-site brewing and weekend tastings, is scheduled to open in Ducktown, TN, this spring.
#6: 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.
#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 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. (ducktownbasinmuseum.com)
#8: Ocoee Whitewater Center
The OWC was constructed specifically 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. It’s a great place for families to spend the day exploring and swimming. (US Forest Service)
#9: 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 spring through fall — weekends on the shoulder seasons and most days during the summer. RaftOne can provide a wetsuit for cooler days.
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.