Once barren Copper Basin reaches major milestone in restoration effort [photos]

Contaminated water in Davis Mill Creek is a reminder of what all streams within the Copper Basin looked like after mining efforts that started in the 1850s damaged the landscape for over a century. Reforestation and water quality improvements are now finally sustainable for wildlife and natural tree regeneration in most of the area.

It's amazing what's been done at this site in just 15 years.

DUCKTOWN, Tenn. - Standing in the Copper Basin today feels like standing in many rural Tennessee settings: rolling hills dotted with trees and grassy meadows, ponds alive with largemouth bass.

Step back to view it from a hilltop observation deck in the parking lot of the Ducktown Basin Museum and there are a few, subtle indicators this expansive stretch of land in the southeastern corner of the state is just a little bit different than the lush landscapes elsewhere in the region.

That it no longer shows the prolific scars of its past, however, is a testament to decades of restoration efforts and a partnership of public and private agencies that recently reached a milestone agreement in the denouement of one of the nation's most remarkable acts of reclamation.