North Georgia’s Twin Towns
Not many people can claim to have one foot in Georgia and one foot in Tennessee, but several places display the painted blue line that divides streets and the river of these two small towns.
Toccoa Avenue that’s in Georgia, turns into Ocoee Street in Tennessee. Then under the old iron bridge built in 1911 that still stands, the Toccoa River in Georgia, becomes the Ocoee River in Tennessee.
The historic roots of this area began long ago from mining in the Copper Basin. The Cherokee knew of the rich deposits beneath the Basin and had actually smelted copper from this area before the first European settlers came. The official year of the discovery of copper was 1843 and spurred a copper rush to the Basin. Miners were mainly American, although they arrived from Cornwall, England, Poland, & Slovakia.
In 1847, it is recorded that 90 cakes of ore were transported by mule to the closest railroad in Dalton, Georgia. The first official mine was located at Hiawassee – which was later renamed, Ducktown, Tennessee and was opened in 1850. The Ocoee River Gorge provided a wagon wheel road in 1853 and ore was transported to Cleveland, TN.
(J. E.) Julius Eckardt Raht, who was an immigrant from Germany; had worked at several mines across the country. With the prosperity of his store business, he began to consolidate much of the mining in the area in 1860 and invested much of his proceeds to acquire over 480 acres of land.
Between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the century, about 24 million tons of ore had been produced. In 1890, a rail line was completed between Marietta, Georgia and Knoxville, TN. that provided needed transportation for the area.
McCaysville, was chartered in 1904 and was populated in 1899 from the creation of the Tennessee Copper Company that began smelting works near McCays, which was renamed in 1908 to Copperhill. The towns grew rapidly and the region employed over 3,300 people who produced copper, iron, sulfur, zinc, and small amounts of gold and silver. In 1942, a large sulfuric acid plant was built, making chemical production, along with mining continue until copper was imported cheaper than we could mine and in 1987 mining in the region ended.
Cooperative reclamation efforts started in 1930 to transform this once barren “moonscape”, that was as red as the copper itself. Forest revegetation helped to preserve the natural landscape that visitors see today. Just 15 minutes north is home to the Ducktown Basin Museum on the site of the old Burra Burra mine where visitors can view the history of mining in Copper Basin.
Today, the area has realized its wealth of other natural resources and turned to tourism. The Toccoa River is wide and peaceful for a lazy afternoon of tubing and just a few miles beyond the bridge becomes a wild river of The Ocoee that is well known for kayaking and rafting; host to the 1996 Olympic Games.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway has sightseeing excursions between Blue Ridge, Georgia and McCaysville / Copperhill. This train route consists of a 26-mile round trip through historic Murphy Junction along the beautiful Toccoa River.
Train excursions from Etowah, TN run along the old CSX tracks and go through the Cherokee National Forest and scenic Hiwassee River.
Visitors are welcomed to stretch their legs at the stop of the rail line to explore the downtown communities of McCaysville and Copperhill. Two parks provide a nice setting for a peaceful picnic or play area with McCaysville City Park or Horseshoe Bend Park just on the outskirts of downtown. Cute specialty shops are lined with unique gifts, gem shops, outfitters and souvenir stores. A variety of Pubs, breweries, coffee shops, bakeries, and dining facilities offer outdoor patio dining. The new Riverwalk Shops are located on the Toccoa River and offer shopping and dining. Visitors can enjoy the friendly folks and feel relaxed watching the scenic river in these “twin towns” of Tennessee and North Georgia.