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Swain County, North Carolina facts for kids

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Swain County
Old Swain County Courthouse in Bryson City
Old Swain County Courthouse in Bryson City
Official seal of Swain County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Swain County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  North Carolina
Founded 1871
Named for David L. Swain
Seat Bryson City
Largest town Bryson City
 • Total 541 sq mi (1,400 km2)
 • Land 528 sq mi (1,370 km2)
 • Water 13 sq mi (30 km2)  2.3%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 26/sq mi (10/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 11th

Swain County is a county located on the far western border of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,981. Its county seat is Bryson City.

Four rivers flow through the mountainous terrain of Swain County: the Nantahala, Oconaluftee, Tuckaseegee and the Little Tennessee. Their valleys were occupied for thousands of years by various societies of indigenous peoples, including the South Appalachian Mississippian culture era, and the historic Cherokee people. Today Native Americans, mostly members of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, comprise 29% of the population in Swain County.


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 2011, the Swain County High School football team captured its eighth state football championship, winning the state 1A championships by a score of 20-14 over the Ayden-Grifton Chargers. The Maroon Devils as a team won three consecutive state championships (1988, 1989, 1990); several noteworthy players were on this team while being led by former University of Tennessee and National Football League quarterback and departing U.S. Representative Heath Shuler (Source: North Carolina High School Athletic Association). The school has also won one state championship in volleyball (2008) and two team state championships in cross country (1999 and 2000).

In 2006, the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NC-200610) was established at Swain County High School. The unit was created to educate and train high school cadets in citizenship, promote community service, instill responsibility, character, and self-discipline, and provide instruction in air and space fundamentals.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 541 square miles (1,400 km2), of which 528 square miles (1,370 km2) is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) (2.3%) 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 6,643 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.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 3,784
1890 6,577 73.8%
1900 8,401 27.7%
1910 10,403 23.8%
1920 13,224 27.1%
1930 11,568 −12.5%
1940 12,177 5.3%
1950 9,921 −18.5%
1960 8,387 −15.5%
1970 7,861 −6.3%
1980 10,283 30.8%
1990 11,268 9.6%
2000 12,968 15.1%
2010 13,981 7.8%
2020 14,117 1.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

2020 census

Swain County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 8,541 60.5%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 102 0.72%
Native American 4,030 28.55%
Asian 53 0.38%
Pacific Islander 10 0.07%
Other/Mixed 789 5.59%
Hispanic or Latino 592 4.19%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 14,117 people, 5,620 households, and 3,615 families residing in the county.


Major highways

  • US 19
  • US 74
  • US 129
  • US 441
  • NC 28


Swain County has one railroad, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which has its headquarters in Bryson City.


Map of Swain County North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels
Map of Swain County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels


Census-designated place

Unincorporated communities


  • Charleston
  • Forney Creek
  • Nantahala


Swain County Schools serves all of the county except for the part in the Cherokee reservation, which is in Cherokee Central Schools. Swain County High School serves the former and Cherokee Central High School serves the latter.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Swain para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Distinguished Hispanic diplomats
Raymond Telles
Esteban Torres
Romualdo Pacheco
Raúl Héctor Castro
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