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Map Location of Swain County of Western North Carolina
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Swain County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2010, the population is 13,981. Its county seat is Bryson City.

Swain County is home of the Nantahala River and Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Swain County Courthouse of Western North Carolina
Swain County Courthouse in Bryson City, NC


The county was formed in 1871 from parts of Jackson County and Macon County. It was named for David L. Swain, governor of North Carolina from 1832 to 1835, and president of the University of North Carolina from 1835 to 1868.

In 2004, the Swain County High School football team captured its seventh state football championship. The Maroon Devils won three consecutive state championships (1988, 1989, 1990) while being led by former University of Tennessee and National Football League quarterback and current U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (Source: North Carolina High School Athletic Association).

Law and Government

Swain County is a member of the regional Southwestern Commission council of governments.

The town of Cherokee, North Carolina, is on the Qualla Boundary, a tribal reservation for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and is therefore subject mostly to tribal/federal laws rather than county or state laws.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 541 square miles, of which, 528 square miles of it is land and 13 square miles of it is water.

The county is located in the western part of North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains and has a larger proportion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park than any other county in North Carolina or Tennessee.

The highest point in the county is Clingmans Dome, elevation 6643 feet, located on the NC/TN border. This mountain is the third highest peak in North Carolina, and an observation tower is located on its summit.


The County is divided into three Townships: Charleston, Forney Creek, Nantahala.

Cities and Towns

  • Bryson City
  • Cherokee
  • Whittier

Township Locations of Swain County of Western North Carolina


As of the census of 2010, there were 13,981 people, 5,608 households residing in the county out of which 7.1% had children under the age of 5, 23.4% had children under the age of 18 and 17.5% were over the age of 65. The average persons per household was 2.32. The population density was 26 per square mile. There were 8,308 housing units at an average density of 16 per square mile.

  • White persons - 66.6%
  • Black persons - 0.5%
  • American Indian and Alaska Native persons - 27.0%
  • Asian persons - 0.5%
  • Persons reporting two or more races - 4.2%
  • Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 3.9%

The median income for a household in the county was $35,700. The per capita income for the county was $18,742. About 17.6% of the population were below the poverty line.

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