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Watauga County, NC Visitor Center 2013
Map Location of Watauga County of Western North Carolina
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Watauga County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2010, the population was 51,079. Its county seat is Boone.

Downtown Boone in Watauga County of Western North Carolina
Downtown Boone, NC


The county was formed in 1849 from parts of Ashe County, Caldwell County, Wilkes County, and Yancey County. It was named for the Watauga River, whose name is said to be a Native American word meaning "beautiful water."

In 1861 parts of Watauga County, Burke County, Caldwell County, McDowell County, and Yancey County were combined to form Mitchell County. In 1911, parts of Watauga County, Caldwell County, and Mitchell County were combined to form Avery County.

Country music pioneer Al Hopkins was born in Watauga County in 1889.

Eight-time Grammy Award winner Doc Watson was born in Watauga County in 1923 and still maintains his home in the community of Deep Gap.

Law and government

Watauga County is a member of the regional High Country Council of Governments.

Climate and Weather

As with most of North Carolina's High Country, the climate of Watauga County is considerably cooler and more drastic than other parts of the state. Dramatic and unexpected changes in the weather are not uncommon in the county, particularly when it comes to precipitation. Windy conditions, sudden temperature drops, and even freezing precipitation in late spring and early autumn is quite common. This is partly due to the elevation of the county, and partly due to orographic lifting, which causes precipitation to fall more readily in Watauga County than in lowland areas to the east. Snow and/or sleet has been reported in the county in every month of the year except for July. Windy conditions, also, tend to be amplified across the county due to the rugged terrain and high elevation. Many people have noted that the winters of Watauga County tend to resemble those of the northern United States instead of the South.

Because of the cold weather in Watauga County, the area is home to several ski resorts. These include Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain, and Seven Devils.


Watauga County elementary schools include:Cove Creek Elementary, Parkway Elementary, Hardin Park Elementary, Blowing Rock Elementary, Green Valley, Mabel, Bethel, and Valle Crucis Elementary; and one private school, Appalachian Christian School. Watauga has one high school, Watauga High. The high school has appx. 1400 students from around the county. The Watauga football team, the Pioneers, won the state championship in 1978; but since then, the farthest the team has gotten was the Final Four of the 4A Tournament in the 2006 season.


  • The county produces heavy amounts of Fraser Fir Christmas Trees.
  • The growth of produce was once a mainstay in the agricultural economy of the county. Cabbage was once widely grown, so much so, that a sauerkraut plant was once located in Boone. The plant has long been closed. Boone Creek, the main creek that runs through Boone and the Appalachian State campus is still nicknamed Kraut Creek since it is said that the creek used to smell of sauerkraut juice coming out of the plant.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 313 square miles, of which, 313 square miles of it is land and 0 square miles of it is water. Watauga County is extremely mountainous, and all of the county's terrain is located within the Appalachian Mountains range. The highest point in the county is Calloway Peak, the highest peak of Grandfather Mountain (shared with the adjacent counties of Avery and Caldwell), which rises to 5,964 feet (1,818 meters) above sea level. At an elevation of 5,506 feet (1,678 meters) above sea level, Beech Mountain is the highest incorporated community east of the Mississippi River. Boone, the county's largest city and county seat, has the highest elevation (3,333 feet) of any city over 10,000 population in the Eastern United States.


The county is divided into fifteen townships: Bald Mountain, Beaverdam, Blowing Rock, Blue Ridge, Boone, Brushy Fork, Cove Creek, Elk, Laurel Creek, Meat Camp, New River, North Fork, Shawneehaw, Stony Fork, and Watauga

Cities and Towns

  • Beech Mountain
  • Blowing Rock
  • Boone
  • Seven Devils

Unincorporated Communities

  • Deep Gap
  • Sugar Grove
  • Valle Crucis
  • Zionville

Township Locations of Watauga County of Western North Carolina


As of the census of 2010, there were 51,079 people, 18,497 households residing in the county out of which 4.4% had children under the age of 5, 14.3% had children under the age of 18 and 12.7% were over the age of 65. The average persons per household was 2.13. The population density was 163 per square mile. There were 27,843 housing units at an average density of 89 per square mile.

  • White persons - 94.5%
  • Black persons - 1.7%
  • American Indian and Alaska Native persons - 0.3%
  • Asian persons - 0.9%
  • Persons reporting two or more races - 1.4%
  • Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 3.4%

The median income for a household in the county was $38,031. The per capita income for the county was $21,534. About 21.2% of the population were below the poverty line.


No commercial airports or passenger train depots are nearby. A helipad is in service at the Watauga Medical Center. A small general aviation airstrip is located in Boone. Commercial airline passengers typically utilize the airports at Charlotte, Tri-Cities Tennessee, or Greensboro, North Carolina. Some visitors use Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which may have lower airfares on some routes, but is a considerable distance away.

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