Graham County, North Carolina

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Not to be confused with Graham, North Carolina.
Graham County, North Carolina
Map of North Carolina highlighting Graham County
Location in the state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location in the U.S.
Founded 1872
Named for William A. Graham
Seat Robbinsville
Largest town Robbinsville
 • Total 302 sq mi (782 km2)
 • Land 292 sq mi (756 km2)
 • Water 10 sq mi (26 km2), 3.16%
 • (2010) 8,861
 • Density 28/sq mi (11/km²)
Congressional district 11th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Graham County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 8,861.[1] Its county seat is Robbinsville.[2]


The county was formed January 30, 1872, from the northeastern part of Cherokee County. It was named for William A. Graham,[3] United States Senator from North Carolina (1840–1843) and Governor of North Carolina (1845–1849).

Law and government[edit]

Graham County is a member of the regional Southwestern Commission council of governments. The county is the only dry county in North Carolina.[4]


November sunrise on Lake Santeetlah, Graham County, North Carolina

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 302 square miles (780 km2), of which 292 square miles (760 km2) is land and 10 square miles (26 km2) (3.2%) is water.[5] The terrain of the county is mountainous,[6] with elevations ranging from 1,177 feet (359 m) to 5,560 feet (1,690 m). Two-thirds of the county is the Nantahala National Forest. The soil of the valleys is fertile.[6]

Fontana Lake, an impoundment of the Little Tennessee River, forms most of the northern border of the county, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the other side of the lake. Fontana Lake is formed by Fontana Dam, the tallest dam in the eastern U.S. The remainder of the northern boundary of Graham County is almost completely formed by another impoundment of the Little Tennessee River, downstream from Fontana Dam, created by Cheoah Dam. Fontana Dam and Cheoah Dam are both operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Appalachian Trail winds through Graham County. Part of the trail is located on top of Fontana Dam. The Cheoah River is noted for its Class IV and Class V whitewater rapids. The river is used for whitewater rafting about 17 days per year, based on a water-release schedule from Santeetlah Dam. Seventy-five percent of Lake Santeetlah shoreline borders national forest.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, a rare example of an old growth cove hardwood forest, is located in northwestern Graham County. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is part of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness area.

The eastern terminus of the Cherohala Skyway is located in northwestern Graham County. The 36-mile (58 km) Cherohala Skyway connects Graham County with Tellico Plains, Tennessee.

The Cherokee name for the area, Nantahala, is translated as "land of the noon-day sun" because 90% of the land is on slopes of 30 degrees or steeper, so that in the valleys one sees sun only in the middle of the day. [7]

Indian reservation[edit]

Parts of the Qualla Boundary, also known as the Eastern Cherokee Indian Reservation, are located in Graham County. These sections of the Qualla Boundary are non-contiguous from the primary part of the Qualla Boundary located in Swain, Jackson, Cherokee and Haywood counties. The Cherokees who live in Graham County form the Snowbird Cherokee community.

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected area[edit]

Major highways[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 2,335
1890 3,313 41.9%
1900 4,343 31.1%
1910 4,749 9.3%
1920 4,872 2.6%
1930 5,841 19.9%
1940 6,418 9.9%
1950 6,886 7.3%
1960 6,432 −6.6%
1970 6,562 2.0%
1980 7,217 10.0%
1990 7,196 −0.3%
2000 7,993 11.1%
2010 8,861 10.9%
Est. 2012 8,700 −1.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[8]
2012 Estimate[1]

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 7,993 people, 3,354 households, and 2,411 families residing in the county. The population density was 27 people per square mile (11/km²). There were 5,084 housing units at an average density of 17 per square mile (7/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 91.91% White, 0.19% Black or African American, 6.84% Native American, 0.16% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.13% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 0.75% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 27.6% were of American, 15.1% Irish, 12.7% English, 10.6% German and 5.1% Scots-Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. 97.7% spoke English and 1.3% Cherokee as their first language.

There were 3,354 households out of which 27.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.80% were married couples living together, 8.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.10% were non-families. 26.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the county the population was spread out with 22.00% under the age of 18, 7.30% from 18 to 24, 25.20% from 25 to 44, 27.50% from 45 to 64, and 18.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 95.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.60 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $26,645, and the median income for a family was $32,750. Males had a median income of $24,207 versus $18,668 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,237. About 14.40% of families and 19.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.30% of those under age 18 and 20.40% of those age 65 or over.

Notable residents[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

  • Portions of the movie Nell (1994), starring Jodie Foster, were filmed near Robbinsville.
  • Portions of the movie The Fugitive (1993), starring Harrison Ford, were filmed at Cheoah Dam.
  • The historic 1927 silent film Stark Love was filmed in Graham County and featured local residents as actors.


Map of Graham County, North Carolina With municipal and township labels


The county is divided into four townships: Cheoah, Fontana Dam, Stecoah, and Yellow Creek.

Other communities[edit]

Other communities in Graham County include Almond, Atoah, Fontana Heights, Fontana Dam, Fontana Village, Snowbird, Stecoah Valley, Sweetwater, Tapoco (named for the Tallassee Power Company[11]), and Tuskeegee. Topton lies just outside Graham County, near the convergence of Graham, Cherokee, Swain and Macon counties. Tallulah, a community just south of Robbinsville, may have been named for a mythological Cherokee Indian. Many smaller communities in Graham County are named for bodies of water, notable landscape features, or early settlers. These include Meadow Branch, Yellow Creek, and Sawyers Creek.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 140. 
  4. ^ "Legal Sales by County: North Carolina ABC Commission". Retrieved 2010-06-07. 
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg "Graham. I. An extreme W. county of North Carolina". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 
  7. ^ Historical Marker in Robbinsville, the county seat
  8. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  9. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ "® - ZIP Code™ Lookup". 2011-03-28. Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  11. ^ Graham County website.

Coordinates: 35°21′N 83°50′W / 35.35°N 83.83°W / 35.35; -83.83