This year Ducktown, TN will hold their 48th Annual Miners’ Homecoming celebration on Friday, June 23rd and Saturday, June 24th, 2023. The Miners’ Homecoming is a celebration of the miners who worked the copper mines in the Ducktown / Copperhill area of Tennessee near the Ocoee River from 1850 to 1987 when the last mine closed. Below is a brief history of the mining industry in Ducktown, Tennessee for your reading pleasure. Be sure and read to the end for more information on the Miners’ Homecoming celebration for the 2023 season! Also, don’t forget to book your whitewater rafting trip with Carolina Ocoee before you leave!
Copper Mining Early Days
In 1843, a prospector by the name of Lemmons went looking for gold in a branch on Potato Creek in Polk County, Tennessee. He didn’t find gold; instead he found red oxide of copper. Lemmons abandoned the area and went searching for gold elsewhere. Others arrived and discovered that copper was profitable. Copper mining started in 1947 and, later, the Hiawassee Copper Mine opened in August of 1850 becoming the first deep mining operation in the area. Over the years several more mines opened, including the Burra Burra Mine in Ducktown which operated from 1899 until 1958. In 1850 Hiawassee was the first community settled in the area, which was later renamed Ducktown–supposedly named for a Cherokee Chief named Duck, but there is no record of this chief existing.
Copper mining initially created a boom for the area but, due to a lack of roads to get the copper out of the basin to reach the nearest railroad in Dalton, GA, and for settlers to arrive in the area, the mines began to close until there were only three consolidated mines: the Union Consolidated Mining Company, the Burra Burra Copper Company, and the Ducktown Copper Company. A rail line was built in 1850 between Dalton, GA and Cleveland TN, but it was still a good distance between Cleveland and Ducktown to haul the copper out on the backs of donkeys. Once the “Copper Road” (wagon road) was built and connected to the Dalton Road, they could haul copper far easier in a four hour round trip.
Over the years, copper mining in the area became obsolete but not before the land was stripped leaving an ecological disaster in its wake. Slowly the land began to heal and, today, Ducktown is a thriving tourist destination where white water rafting on the Ocoee River morphed into a commercial success. We at Carolina Ocoee are proud to be a part of this thriving industry bringing joy and wild fun to all who white water raft with us.
Homecoming Celebration 2023
After your white water rafting trip with Carolina Ocoee on June 23rd or June 24th, go celebrate with the townsfolk of Ducktown. The decendants of the miners live in Ducktown and each year they pay homage to their great-grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers, and husbands who worked the mines. It’s a time of remembrance and celebration for those who came before and carved out a living in the vast, rough wilderness of Eastern Tennessee. On Friday and Saturday, MainStreet will host vendors so attendees can purchase food and goodies. Join them for an early Saturday morning pancake breakfast (hosted by the Masonic Lodge), a walking patriotic parade, a soup bean dinner, beauty pageant, rubber duck race, and fireworks at dark. Come on out and have a whopping good time with the townsfolk!
More about Ducktown Copper Mines
For more history about the Ducktown Basin copper mines, visit: Burra Burra Copper in the Ducktown Mining District of Tennessee By Frank Festa. You can also visit the Ducktown Basin Museum while you’re in town to tour the old Burra Burra Mine.