The Ducktown Basin, in Polk County, in the 1950s
PHOTO: Ducktown Basin Museum
County Seat: Benton
Copper is an important metal; the water that comes into your house is usually carried in copper pipes. Copper was discovered in PolkCounty in 1843 and within a few years it had become heavily mined. Unfortunately the method of extracting raw copper in those days created a by-product of sulfuric acid, a lot of which was dumped into the ground.
By 1900 thousands of acres of PolkCounty was completely void of vegetation. Today the trees and animals have begun to come back, but the environmental damage remains and is still being cleaned up, especially in the streams that pour into the OcoeeRiver.
Rafters on the Hiwassee
Today, when people think of Polk County, they are more likely to think about rafting and kayaking than they are copper mining. Both the Ocoee and Hiwassee rivers are ideal for whitewater recreation, especially since TVA controls the water levels of both by use of dams. Therefore, both rivers are frequented by summer users. In fact, the Ocoee River was the site of the 1996 Olympic Canoe and Kayak Slalom Competition.
Polk County also boasts the state's most entertaining train ride. The Tennessee Valley Railroad, which is based in Chattanooga, has a passenger route that heads up the tracks that are along the Hiwassee River and takes you to Farner, which is near the North Carolina boarder. Along the way it goes through the "Hiwassee Loop" -- a place where the tracks encircle a mountain nearly twice before crossing over themselves along a 60-foot railroad tresle!
Here's the Polk County Courthouse.