April 20, 2014 - 09:23
The beautiful and unspoiled
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Polk County, located in the extreme southeast corner of Tennessee adjacent to Georgia and North Carolina, has long been an undiscovered treasure.
Polk County, located in the extreme southeast corner of  Tennessee adjacent to Georgia and North Carolina, has long been an undiscovered treasure. For that reason, it has remained relatively unspoiled and is the perfect spot for those who want to enjoy nature without distraction from the commercialism that marks many other areas touted for their natural beauty. With the Olympic competition on the Ocoee River in 1996, the county has been “discovered,” and there is increasing development, but the beauty of the area remains.

Instead of amusement parks offering man-made excitement, Polk County offers the natural excitement of the Ocoee River, one of the best  and most popular whitewater rafting rivers in the country. Or, as an alternative, there is rafting, canoeing or floating in a tube down the less-intimidating Hiwassee. Polk County also offers the solitude of Wilderness areas where vehicles are not allowed and campgrounds in or near the Cherokee National Forest, with its swimming and hiking areas designated for family activities. The Consauga River also offers unique opportunities for recreation, including underwater wildlife watching.

Polk County has three beautiful rivers and a multitude of streams with fish (native and stocked) for the taking. During the various hunting seasons, there are deer, wild boar, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and other game.

The scenery in Polk County is about as diverse as anywhere in the nation. The Cherokee National Forest is replete with the wildlife, streams, and breathtaking vistas available only in the mountains. The natural beauty is a balm to those who have had enough of the stress and bustle of city life. Recognizing the beauty of a drive through the Cherokee, the U.S. Forest Service designated a portion of U.S. 64 and FS Road 77 as its first Scenic Byway in the nation.

In the Copper Basin area, the natural beauty was devastated by copper ore roasting practices in the late 1800s but a half-century of reforestation efforts have made a big dent in the barren red hills which once overwhelmed the landscape. There are still hauntingly beautiful reminders of man's potential for destruction of the environment.

In between, there are small towns, general stores, bed & breakfasts, and Mom & Pop restaurants that are thriving in a community where "old-fashioned values" are not old fashioned.

Polk County also offers the rich heritage of this area of the country. The Ducktown Basin Museum has an excellent presentation on the colorful history of copper mining in the Basin. The Benton area is home to historic Fort Marr, which was part of a stockade to confine Cherokees during the Trail of Tears.  Nearby is the gravesite of the Cherokee heroine Nancy Ward. Reliance provides a look at a mountain community unchanged for nearly a century. For those interested in the local history of everyday people, there are company houses in the Copper Basin and historic farms throughout the area. Nearby counties have additional small museums and historic sites that share the heritage of the Tennessee Overhill region, named for the Cherokee tribes that lived here, overhill from the lower Cherokee settlements.

TVA facilities in the county are an interesting story in themselves. In addition to lakes and dams, there is the historic Ocoee River Flume. This technological marvel, first built in the side of a mountain in the early 1900s, transports the Ocoee's water for power generation when the river is not being used for whitewater rafting. The Sugarloaf Mountain Park, located just downstream of Ocoee Dam #1, has exhibits on the power system as well as picnic tables and water access.

Businesses in Polk County are primarily family owned and operated, which means you will receive more personal attention for your shopping needs and home-made food for your meals. Whatever you need, you can find it in a friendly atmosphere.

Whether you enter Polk County from North Carolina, Georgia, or another Tennessee county, don't be in a hurry to get through. Take some time to travel throughout the county and enjoy the countryside and the local flavor. Stop at a local restaurant or deli to get your picnic lunch and make a day of it. You'll probably find it will take more than a day to enjoy all the beauty and activity available.

 Take winding, scenic Hwy. 64, locally known as the River Road, from one side of the county to the other and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the mountains, the adventurous spirit of the whitewater rafters, the marvel of the flume line and other TVA facilities, and the beautiful Ocoee Whitewater Center. (Please keep in mind that this road is also a thoroughfare for local people and truckers who appreciate it when you pull over to enjoy the scenery rather than poke along on the highway.)

Polk County is also a good location for homes, businesses and industry. The people are friendly and industrious and there is an ample labor pool. There are two industrial parks, one on each side of the county, as well as land suitable for development. County government officials and business leaders are eager to provide assistance.

Polk County, Tennessee ... a hidden treasure that is fast becoming an international treasure.

Don't let the superhighways take you away before you have the chance to experience it.

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Polk County News | P.O. Box 129 | 3 Main Street | Benton TN 37307
phone: 423-338-2818 | fax: 423-338-4574 | email

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