Rabun County, Georgia

Rabun County (/ˈrbən/) is the north-easternmost county in the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2020 census, the population was 16,883,[1] up from 16,276 in 2010.[2] The county seat is Clayton.[3] With an average annual rainfall of over 70 inches (1,800 mm), Rabun County has the title of the rainiest county in Georgia and is one of the rainiest counties east of the Cascades.[4] The year 2018 was the wettest on record in the county's history. The National Weather Service cooperative observation station in northwest Rabun's Germany Valley measured 116.48 inches of rain during the year. During 2020, the Germany Valley NWS station reported a yearly precipitation total of 100.19 inches.

Rabun County
Rabun County courthouse in Clayton
Rabun County courthouse in Clayton
Map of Georgia highlighting Rabun County
Location within the U.S. state of Georgia
Map of the United States highlighting Georgia
Georgia's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 34°52′37″N 83°24′30″W / 34.87692°N 83.40820°W / 34.87692; -83.40820Coordinates: 34°52′37″N 83°24′30″W / 34.87692°N 83.40820°W / 34.87692; -83.40820
Country United States
State Georgia
Founded1819; 203 years ago (1819)
Named forWilliam Rabun
Largest cityClayton
 • Total377 sq mi (980 km2)
 • Land370 sq mi (1,000 km2)
 • Water6.9 sq mi (18 km2)  1.8%
 • Total16,883[1]
 • Density44/sq mi (17/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district9th


As early as 1760, explorers came to the area now known as Rabun County. In the 18th century, the population of Cherokee in the area was so heavy that this portion of the Appalachian Mountains was sometimes called the "Cherokee Mountains." The early explorers and settlers divided the Cherokee people into three divisions depending on location and dialect, the Lower, Middle, and Over-the-Hill. There were at least four Cherokee settlements in what would later become Rabun County. A Middle settlement called Stikayi (Stiyaki, Sticoa, Stekoa) was located on Stekoa Creek, probably southeast of the present-day Clayton. An Over-the-Hill settlement called Tallulah was located on the upper portion of the Tallulah River. There were also two Cherokee settlements of unknown division, Chicherohe (Chechero), which was destroyed during the American Revolutionary War, located along Warwoman Creek, east of Clayton, and Eastertoy (Eastatowth, Estatowee) which was located near the present-day Dillard.

Despite the prominence of the Cherokee, there is evidence that other Native Americans were in the region before them. A mound similar to others across North Georgia (including the famous Etowah Indian Mounds) is located about one mile (1.6 km) east of Dillard, Georgia and is likely a remnant of an earlier mound-building Native American culture known as the Mississippian culture.[5] The mound location is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Hoojah Branch Site.

Portrait of William Bartram by Peale

Explorer and naturalist William Bartram was one of the early visitors to Rabun County. According to his journal entries for May, 1775, Bartram crossed the Chattooga River into Georgia near its confluence with Warwoman Creek. He later went through a junction of Cherokee trails called Dividings (which would later become Clayton), and then traveled north to an area called Passover (which would later become Mountain City). During his visit to the area, he also climbed Rabun Bald. His travels in Rabun County are memorialized today by the Georgia portion of the hiking trail known as the Bartram Trail.

John Dillard and his family were among the first documented settlers in the area in 1794 as a result of a land grant for his service in the American Revolution. The settlers were initially tolerated, but tensions increased as displaced Cherokees moved in from other areas. Eventually, the white settlers were viewed as invaders who did not respect nature and killed the game and, as a result, raids between the clashing cultures became commonplace. For the most part, the hostilities ended a few years before the Cherokee ceded the land to Georgia in 1817.

The Georgia General Assembly passed an act to create the county on December 21, 1819, becoming Georgia's forty-seventh county. The northern border of the county was established as latitude 35°N, which is the boundary between Georgia and North Carolina. Due to irregularities in an early survey mission, the Georgia-North Carolina border at Rabun County's northeast corner was erroneously set several hundred yards north of the 35th parallel, giving this location at Ellicott's Rock the distinction of being the State of Georgia's northernmost point. The county is named for William Rabun, who served as the 11th Governor of Georgia from his election in 1817 until his death in 1819. In 1828, the Georgia General Assembly transferred a portion of Habersham County to Rabun County. In 1838, the legislature redefined the Rabun-Habersham county line. In 1856, the legislature used portions of Rabun and Union Counties to create Towns County.[6]

Tallulah Ranger Station near Clayton in 1935

During the U.S. Civil War, Rabun County was one of only five Georgia counties that did not declare secession from the Union.[7] Although the county was largely untouched by the Civil War, the area did border on anarchy during that time. The county was described by some as being "almost a unit against secession." One of the county's residents recalled in 1865 that "You cannot find a people who were more averse to secession than were the people of our county." He stated that "I canvassed the county in 1860–61 myself and I know that there were not exceeding twenty men in this county who were in favor of secession."[8] Despite its overall loyalty to the Union, Rabun County did field two regiments for the Confederate cause: Rabun 24th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company E, Rabun Gap Riflemen; and Rabun 52nd Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company F, Beauregard Braves.

In 1898, the Tallulah Falls Railway was constructed on a north–south track through the county. One of the most popular stops along the railway was Tallulah Gorge. The Railway was in operation for more than 60 years and was featured in the Disney movie, The Great Locomotive Chase.

Starting in the 1920s, many of the improvements in the county can be attributed to the establishment, growth and expansion of the Chattahoochee National Forest in the county. One of the key figures in the establishment and growth of the Chattahoochee National Forest was "Ranger Nick" Nicholson, Georgia's first forest ranger. Among other things, Ranger Nick was responsible for arranging for telephone lines to be run from Clayton, Georgia to the Pine Mountain community in the eastern part of the county.

Deliverance (1972), a highly popular film about a group of city men taking a canoe trip in north Georgia, was filmed largely in Rabun County. After the film's release, Rabun County experienced an increase in tourism, with the number of visitors going from hundred to tens of thousands. By 2012, 40 years later, tourism was the largest source of revenue in the county.[9] According to the US Census, the population has doubled since 1970.

Claude Terry, Jon Voight's stunt double for this film, later purchased river equipment used in the movie from Warner Brothers. He founded Southeastern Expeditions, what is now the oldest whitewater rafting adventure company on the Chattooga River.[10] By 2012 rafting had developed as a $20 million industry in the region.[9]

Because of the scenery, people with money have built vacation and second homes around the area's lakes.[9] In June 2012, Rabun County held a Chattooga River Festival to encourage preservation of the river and its environment. It also noted the 40th anniversary of the filming of Deliverance in the area, an aspect which aroused controversy in planning for the festival.[9]

Law & GovernmentEdit

Rabun County courthouse in Clayton, Georgia

The county is governed by a five-member Board of Commissioners. In addition to the Rabun County Sheriff's Office, the towns of Clayton, Mountain City, Dillard, Sky Valley, and Tallulah Falls all have their own police departments.

Rabun County is protected by a volunteer fire department, which is made up of 12 stations, 14 engines, 11 tankers, three boats, and 250 volunteers.[11] Two of the stations (Scaly Mountain/Sky Valley and Tallulah Falls) are separate organizations from Rabun County Fire Services.[citation needed] The county also has an EMA station which is completely volunteer, which provides emergency technical rescue services which include wilderness and urban search and rescue, technical rope rescue, swift-water rescue, confined space rescue, and dive rescue.[11]


Previous Presidential Elections Results[12]Edit

Year Republican Democratic Third parties
Pct. (%) Total Pct. (%) Total Pct. (%) Total
2020 78.1% 7,474 20.7% 1,984 1.2% 116
2016 78.7% 6,287 18.1% 1,444 3.3% 261
2012 77.1% 5,754 20.9% 1,559 2.0% 152
2008 71.9% 5,487 26.2% 2,001 1.9% 145
2004 70.0% 4,650 28.9% 1,918 1.1% 75
2000 64.6% 3,451 33.3% 1,776 2.1% 114
1996 46.4% 2,213 40.8% 1,943 12.8% 611
1992 41.2% 1,902 40.6% 1,878 18.2% 842
1988 63.1% 2,278 36.1% 1,301 0.8% 29
1984 63.4% 2,191 36.6% 1,267 N/A 0
1980 30.6% 1,070 66.6% 2,327 2.8% 98
1976 19.8% 591 80.2% 2,398 N/A 0
1972 80.1% 1,477 19.9% 366 N/A 0
1968 25.4% 680 22.1% 592 52.5% 1,407
1964 23.5% 551 76.5% 1,796 N/A 0
1960 23.0% 464 77.0% 1,552 N/A 0
1956 22.9% 413 77.1% 1,391 N/A 0
1952 25.4% 449 74.6% 1,320 N/A 0
1948 17.0% 165 77.1% 747 5.9% 57
1944 12.9% 185 87.1% 1,247 N/A 0
1940 7.9% 82 91.9% 958 0.3% 3
1936 14.6% 162 85.3% 948 0.1% 1
1932 8.0% 78 91.2% 893 0.8% 8
1928 34.2% 306 65.9% 590 N/A 0
1924 19.7% 117 76.6% 454 3.7% 22
1920 32.0% 147 68.0% 312 N/A 0
1916 20.1% 181 70.3% 633 9.7% 87
1912 25.8% 118 70.7% 323 3.5% 16


1834 map showing Rabun County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 377 square miles (980 km2), of which 370 square miles (960 km2) is land and 6.9 square miles (18 km2) (1.8%) is water.[13] Approximately, 60% of the land is in National Forest and State Parks, approximately 20% is held by Georgia Power and the rest is in private hands. With 148,684 acres (601.70 km2) of the Chattahoochee National Forest, a national protected area, located within its boundaries, Rabun County hosts the largest portion of the Chattahoochee National Forest of any of the 18 counties with land included in the Forest. Most of Rabun County is located in the Tugaloo River sub-basin in the larger Savannah River basin, with a northern portion of the county located in the Upper Little Tennessee sub-basin in the Upper Tennessee River basin.[14]


The county's three major lakes were created in the early 20th century by Georgia Power for hydroelectric power generation. The three lakes today provide recreation as well as power generation: Lake Burton covers 11.23 square kilometres (2,770 acres) or 4.33 sq mi and has 100 kilometres (62 mi) of shoreline, Lake Rabun covers 3.38 square kilometres (840 acres) and has 40 kilometres (25 mi) of shoreline, and Lake Seed covers 0.97 square kilometres (240 acres) and has 21 kilometres (13 mi) of shoreline.[15] The county also boasts a large number of trout streams, including the Tallulah River and its tributaries, Coleman River and Charlies Creek.

The Eastern Continental Divide runs through the county, roughly from southwest to northeast, also representing a portion of the Tennessee Valley Divide. The county's eastern border with South Carolina is formed by the Chattooga River, the largest tributary of the Tugaloo River and then Savannah River (which forms the rest of the border of the two states). The north-central portion of Rabun County is in the watershed of the Little Tennessee River, which flows northward from Mountain City. The high elevation along the divide gives Rabun County the most snow of any in county in Georgia. This also gives it mild weather throughout the warmer months of the year, leading to the county's slogan, Where Spring Spends the Summer. Rabun County is the only county in Georgia with three state parks: Black Rock Mountain, Moccasin Creek, and Tallulah Gorge.


Mountains dominate the topography of Rabun County. The Eastern Continental Divide provides Rabun County with the second and third highest peaks in Georgia: Rabun Bald at 4,696 feet (1,431 m) and Dick's Knob at 4,620 feet (1,410 m). The county has eight peaks that are higher than 4,000 feet (1,200 m) and over 60 peaks that are between 3,000 and 4,000 feet (1,200 m).

*For more information, see: List of Summits and Ridges in Rabun County, Georgia
120-foot Holcomb Creek Falls


Rabun County has a number of picturesque waterfalls, many of which are easily reached by relatively short trails. Among the favorites of visitors to the county are Dick's Creek Falls, Holcomb Creek Falls and Minnehaha Falls.

Hiking trailsEdit

The county has numerous hiking trails. Most notably, a portion of the Appalachian Trail winds through the county and the county is home to a 37-mile (60 km) portion of the Bartram Trail.

Major highwaysEdit

US 23 and US 441 run concurrent, following a south–north route through the county, and US 76 runs west–east. SR 246 begins at Dillard and connects to Sky Valley. SR 28 runs for an extremely short distance in the northeastern tip, between the Carolinas.

Adjacent countiesEdit

Flora and faunaEdit

The threatened bog turtle

Rabun County is home to several endangered and threatened species as reported by the US Fish & Wildlife Service[16] and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.[17]


  • The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) has been removed from the list of endangered species in the US, but is considered to be an endangered species in Georgia.
  • The bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii) is considered to be a threatened species in both the US and Georgia.
  • Three fish found in the county still have their status pending on the US endangered species list, but are protected in Georgia: the fatlips minnow (endangered in Georgia), the highscale shiner (threatened in Georgia) and the olive darter (threatened in Georgia).


There are 15 plants that are protected in Rabun County, including two that are on the Federal endangered species list: persistent trillium (Trillium persistens), rock gnome lichen (Gymnoderma lineare) and swamp pink (Helonias bullata).


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[18]
1790-1960[19] 1900-1990[20]
1990-2000[21] 2010-2013[2] 2020[1]

2000 censusEdit

As of the census[22] of 2000, there were 15,050 people, 6,279 households, and 4,351 families residing in the county. The population density was 41 people per square mile (16/km2). There were 10,210 housing units at an average density of 28 per square mile (11/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 94.88% White, 0.79% Black or African American, 0.43% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.63% from other races, and 0.86% from two or more races. 4.54% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,279 households, out of which 26.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.40% were married couples living together, 8.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.70% were non-families. 26.80% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.70% 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 21.80% under the age of 18, 7.00% from 18 to 24, 25.30% from 25 to 44, 27.70% from 45 to 64, and 18.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 97.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $33,899, and the median income for a family was $39,992. Males had a median income of $28,105 versus $21,164 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,608. About 8.10% of families and 11.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.00% of those under age 18 and 13.00% of those age 65 or over.

2010 censusEdit

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 16,276 people, 6,780 households, and 4,528 families residing in the county.[23] The population density was 44.0 inhabitants per square mile (17.0/km2). There were 12,313 housing units at an average density of 33.3 per square mile (12.9/km2).[24] The racial makeup of the county was 93.3% white, 1.0% black or African American, 0.7% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 3.0% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 8.0% of the population.[23] In terms of ancestry, 16.5% were English, 12.8% were Irish, 11.8% were German, 10.1% were American, and 5.3% were Scotch-Irish.[25]

Of the 6,780 households, 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.4% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 33.2% were non-families, and 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.85. The median age was 45.8 years.[23]

The median income for a household in the county was $34,406 and the median income for a family was $50,410. Males had a median income of $35,951 versus $23,025 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,471. About 12.7% of families and 18.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.6% of those under age 18 and 11.5% of those age 65 or over.[26]

2020 censusEdit

Rabun County racial composition[1]
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 14,625 86.63%
African American (non-Hispanic) 107 0.63%
Native American 28 0.17%
Asian 60 0.36%
Pacific Islander 1 0.01%
Other/Mixed 610 3.61%
Hispanic or Latino 1,452 8.6%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 16,883 people, 6,662 households, and 4,220 families residing in the county.


As of early 2006, the county's two largest employers are textile manufacturers: Rabun Apparel, with over 900 jobs, and National Textiles, with 410.[27] In March 2006, Fruit of the Loom announced it would close the Rabun Apparel plant and lay off all 930 employees. National Textiles has also announced layoffs, but so far, those have only targeted plants in North Carolina and Tennessee.[28]


The Rabun County School District holds pre-school to grade twelve, and consists of a primary school, an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school.[29] The district has 140 full-time teachers and over 2,221 students.[30]

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, a private residential and day school, also operates in the county. It serves boarding students in grades 6–12 and day students pre-K–12.



Unincorporated communitiesEdit

In popular cultureEdit

  • In 2012, producer Cory Welles and director Kevin Walker decided to make the documentary, The Deliverance of Rabun County, to explore the effects of the landmark 1972 film on people in the county. They heard a wide range of opinions, particularly resentment at how the country people were portrayed. Others are pragmatic and looking at the benefits of increased tourism and related businesses.[9]
  • Rabun was the primary shooting location for the 1972 film Deliverance and used many locals as extras, including Billy Redden. While the setting for the movie is suggested as in the north Georgia mountains, Rabun is not specifically mentioned in the film.
  • Larry Burkett's 1991 fantasy novel The Illuminati (1991) is set partly in Rabun County. It and the county seat of Clayton become the refuge of the book's protagonists after forces take control over the American economy; Clayton is safe due to the antiquated analog communications gear and general isolation underlying stereotypes of the area.
  • Rabun County is one of the battlegrounds where humans fight the alien Posleen invaders in John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata series of science fiction books.
  • Rabun County is the setting for the play Foxfire, which had its Broadway premiere in 1982 starring Jessica Tandy and her husband Hume Cronyn. The play was later made into a Hallmark TV movie, starring Tandy, Cronyn, and John Denver. In both the play and the movie, there are several references to Rabun County and the surrounding area.
  • Rabun County is the home of the magazine Foxfire. In 1966, Eliot Wigginton and his students in an English class at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School initiated a project to engage students in writing.[31][32] The class decided to publish a magazine over the course of the semester. Its articles were the product of the students' interviewing their relatives and local citizens about how lifestyles had changed over the course of their lives and dealt with traditions in the rural area. First published in 1966, the magazine covers topics of the lifestyle, culture, crafts, and skills of people in southern Appalachia.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on August 6, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ NOAA Mean Annual Precipitation 1961-1990
  5. ^ "Roadside Georgia's Archives of Rabun County". Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved August 28, 2006.
  6. ^ Rabun County Historical Population Profile Archived 2006-09-16 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Rabun County Comprehensive Plan - Chapter 7 - Historical Cultural Archived 2006-07-24 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Foner, Eric (March 1989). "The South's Inner Civil War: The more fiercely the Confederacy fought for its independence, the more bitterly divided it became. To fully understand the vast changes the war unleashed on the country, you must first understand the plight of the Southerners who didn't want secession". American Heritage. Vol. 40, no. 2. American Heritage Publishing Company. p. 2. Archived from the original on January 3, 2015. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d e Cory Welles, "40 years later, 'Deliverance' causes mixed feelings in Georgia", Marketplace, 22 August 2012, accessed 27 August 2014
  10. ^ "About Us | Rafting Adventures | Southeastern Expeditions". Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Rabun County Fire Department". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  12. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  14. ^ "Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission Interactive Mapping Experience". Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  15. ^ "The Northeast Georgia Lakes". North Georgia Internet Magazine. Archived from the original on January 18, 2006. Retrieved February 4, 2006.
  16. ^ "US Fish & Wildlife Service Listed Species in Rabun County as of May, 2004". Archived from the original on February 17, 2007. Retrieved September 25, 2006.
  17. ^ Georgia Department of Natural Resources List of Georgia Rare Species in Rabun County Archived 2004-08-20 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  19. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  20. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  21. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  22. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  23. ^ a b c "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  24. ^ "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  25. ^ "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  26. ^ "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  27. ^ "Rabun County Major Employers". Rabun County, Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on March 16, 2006. Retrieved March 26, 2006.
  28. ^ Fraser, Donald (March 23, 2006). "Fruit closing, 930 jobs lost". Clayton Tribune. Retrieved March 26, 2006.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ Georgia Board of Education[permanent dead link], Retrieved June 25, 2010.
  30. ^ School Stats, Retrieved June 25, 2010.
  31. ^ Mendonca, Adrienn (September 16, 2005). "Foxfire". New Georgia Encyclopedia. University of Georgia Press. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
  32. ^ "History of RGNS". RGNS. Archived from the original on February 17, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2010.

External linksEdit