Cocke County

If you leave Knoxville heading east on Interstate 40, just before you leave Tennessee you’ll pass through beautiful, historic Cocke County.

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Named after William Cocke, one of the state’s first two U.S. Senators, Cocke County is described by the Chamber of Commerce as a place known for “its majestic mountain beauty, and for the independent survival quality of its people, who have braved the hardship and poverty of the frontier until the present date.”


Classified as ‘distressed’ by both the Appalachian Regional Commission and TNECD, Cocke County ranks 94 out of 95 on overall health among TN counties, according to County Health Rankings.

According to the U.S. Census and the TN Dept of Labor and Workforce Development in 2014

  • 27.8% of people were below the poverty level
  • 59.1% of children under 18 lived in a household receiving public assistance

Cocke County’s Economic and Demographic Profile can be found here, on the East Tennessee Economic Development Agency’s website.


Cocke County is a gateway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park and also is home to major Tennessee River tributaries. The county had a long-fought struggle with the Blue Ridge Paper Mill to preserve the Pigeon River. There have been improvements in water quality, but many in the community would still like to see more done. The Pigeon and the French Broad Rivers have both economic and cultural importance for the county and the region, bringing in $100,000’s of revenue from rafting and recreational travel each year.
ETQG has recently partnered with the Appalachian Chestnut Initiative, a nascent organization dedicated to restoring the American Chestnut Tree, which was once 1 out of every 4 trees in the southern Appalachia, before a blight nearly wiped it out in the early 20th century.
Should you want to visit Cocke County, check out the Partnership’s Tourism Development website, or head over to the  Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide for suggested trip itineraries. There’s rafting, hiking, wineries, and more. Or if you’re just passing through, check out Bean Trees Cafe, right off the interstate in Hartford.
Cocke County has a proud history and an abundance of natural resources, symbolic of so much of Eastern Tennessee and the Southern Appalachians.