Exploring the Copper Basin; Ducktown, Copperhill, and McCaysville

The Copper Basin, also known as the Ducktown Basin, is a geological feature in the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. It is surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest and sits on the Tennessee-Georgia state border.Originally Cherokee territory until the Treaty of New Echota was signed in the late 1830s, the Copper Basin became a major mining site between the 1840s and 1980s.
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When a German immigrant-turned businessman discovered copper in 1843, mining and railroad companies swooped in without delay.

By 1855, over 30 different agencies were mining the area, and many of its resources were confiscated by the Confederacy during the Civil War.

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The chemical smelting process for copper created acid rain in the area, which polluted the water, killed the plants and wildlife, and left the basin with a barren, eerie, red Mars-like landscape.
Photo below shared from Appalachianhistory.net:
appalachianhistorydotnet
Decades of time and billions of dollars later, the area has been reforested, stabilized, and chemically treated to restore water quality and plant life. The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Civilian Conservation Corps were among the organizations who fronted those efforts.

Towns of the Copper Basin include Ducktown and Copperhill, TN as well as McCaysville, Georgia, and a few unincorporated communities. Look closely for murals and signs by the road that depict local legends.
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DUCKTOWN
Burra Burra was the largest mine and is now the site of the Ducktown Basin Museum in Ducktown, which is been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1993.
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A collective of locals started the museum in 1978 and in 1982 they moved it to the former Tennessee Copper Company building in the old Burra Burra mine.

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You can learn about mining history in the area as well as the copper and other elements found in the Basin’s soil and mineral strata.

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Ducktown is a small community with less than 500 residents and a  hand-painted sign that reads “A Quacking Good Place.” 
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It is said to have taken its name after a Cherokee Chief Duck and is the birthplace of Stan Beaver, inDUCKtee (get it?) into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
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Ducktown’s tiny town center is on Main Street, but I only found a handful of non-residential places like Rod’s Rockin Rolls, a second location of Copperhill Brewery, an antique/thrift shop, and some civic offices. The homes in this area are cute and it is definitely worth a detour.
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COPPERHILL
A few minutes away, Copperhill is the residential counterpart to McCaysville’s bourgeoning tourist hub, but the Copper Express offers haunted tours and rides through the Copper Plant near Halloween in addition to its regular “Blue Line” historic tours.

Check out Toccoa River Park and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Station by City Hall while you are in Copperhill.

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Copperhill, Tennessee and McCaysville, Georgia are collectively known as a twin town divided by a river.

The Ocoee River becomes the Toccoa River as you cross the historic steel bridge, and the main roads through town are TN SR-68 and GA SR-60.

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You could drive from Ducktown to Copperhill-McCaysville in less than 10 minutes, but you could easily spend a long weekend or a week’s vacation just visiting the highlights. 
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MCCAYSVILLE
McCaysville is the more lively and popular side of the twin town, with a defined town center, lots of shops, restaurants, breweries, and more.
Visit the McCaysville Welcome Center to pick up to learn some more mining history and view relics from the old mining sites.

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Be sure to get a printed copy of the Directions: Vacation Guide to Blue Ridge, McCaysville, & the Copper Basin for an all-inclusive guide on attractions and coupons. I met the fella who creates this guide and it is a fantastic resource for all things Copper Basin and North Georgia in general.

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RIVERWALK SHOPS
The Riverwalk Shops is an indoor “Ponce Market” style shopping district with three restaurants and eleven shops over the river.
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Burra Burra On the River is the primary restaurant, named after the Copper Basin’s largest mine.
There is indoor and outdoor seating that is shared with the Twisted Tomato and Happy Bear restaurants, and the river-facing patio is open to other guests of the market to enjoy.
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Twisted Tomato has been tempting me for a solid year of almost monthly visits, and I was finally able to pick up a pizza.
The guy who runs it is a friend-of-a-friend, and he makes all of the dough from his own scratch recipe.
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The Rustic Balsamic pizza with olive oil, garlic, spinach, shredded mozzarella, and a balsamic reduction was incredible.

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We picked up some gorgeous jewelry and a few treats for our spoiled pups at Blue Ridge Adventure Wear, Owl’s Nest, and Mainstreet Mutt.
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The Afrika Corner, River Laurel Gifts & Boutique, Pasta Market, and Copperhill Rock & Mineral are a few of the other shops there.
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Deaf Man Vinyl is super cool, and they have a street access entrance so you can get in without going inside the Riverwalk.

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For nightlife, stop by JJ’s Lounge for a few drinks or go to Tooney’s, a live music and event venue with a decent bar selection. 
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BEYOND THE RIVERWALK
There are dozens of places surrounding the Riverwalk like Buck Bald Brewing and Copperhill Brewing, lots of outfitters, cafés, multiple Latin/Cuban/Mexican restaurants, and Fat Raccoon Gallery:
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Bar 21 is McCaysville’s newest cocktail lounge and we had a great time.
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They have an unique style there between sparkling chandeliers, graffiti art walls you can draw on, punk rock battle jackets cut up and used to refurbish chairs, animal print, cool steampunk busts, and some rustic farmhouse accents. Drinks were fanastic, too!
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Buck Bald Brewing opened in 2018 and was an instant hit in the town. They usually keep a dozen or more of their own brews on tap, and I especially adore how many charitable organizations they support. 
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We squeezed into their covered outdoor patio and sampled a few of their finest beers. The gentleman serving took one look at me and suggested two options, and I loved them both. How did he know I hate IPAs but am a hound for German/Belgian styles?

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Copperhill Brewery has a 2nd location in Ducktown, but I have only been to the one in Copperhill-McCaysville. The taproom is much, much larger and more group/ family-friendly than Buck Bald so you can choose your preferred environment.
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I like that each section of the brewery is named after one of area’s former mines and the walls are full of original newspaper articles and relics form that time.

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Yellow Bird Coffee Shop is located right beside the steel bridge, and you can either drive through, walk up to the window, or sit outside on the covered patio and people watch.

The sweet ladies who own it gave my pup a little whipped cream treat when we visited so now he thinks he needs to pop in every time.

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Rum Cake Lady has one of the best Cuban sandwiches I have ever eaten, and there is a second location a few minutes away in Blue Ridge.
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However, this place is known for the decadent little rum and chocolate rum cakes they serve by the hundreds. I would never have expected the flavour punch I got from one of these the first time, and hopefully many more times to come. 

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The Waterfront Bar is across the street and a few steps down from Buck Balk, having just opened on St. Patrick’s Day of 2022. Its covered back deck sits over the river and there is a tiny tiki bar at the end of a path closer to the water itself.

We met the owners and think they are pretty rad, and it has been cool to see them out supporting other local businesses while out on our various adventures around town.

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Chooch Oddities  is just a blink away from the busy downtown Riverwalk area, and it functions like an indoor flea market. 
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Each vendor can put whatever they like in their own booth, so you can find anything from upscale jewelry, homemade herbal products, antiques, whimsical garden and home decor, clothing, and toys. 
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Last, but only because it is the furthest location from downtown, is my personal favourite Folk Apothics at Deep Root Orchard. It located in the Cider House building about a seven minutes’ drive from the Riverwalk shops. 
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As a practicing herbalist myself, I fell in love with their natural offerings and the overall aesthetic of the shop.

Pick up herbal tinctures, salves, bulk herbs, spices, and teas, candles, gifts, and anything else to cure what ails you.

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You can purchase shop merchandise, local honey and stonewear, take classes, pick your own apples, take a yoga class, or various other offerings to learn more about the natural world.

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A visit on Independence Day weekend might reward you with an electrifying fireworks show up on Tater Hill, as part of the Light Up McCaysville & Copperhill festival.
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In the area for a while? Follow me to Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Blairsville, or Helen!

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5 thoughts on “Exploring the Copper Basin; Ducktown, Copperhill, and McCaysville

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