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McDowell County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2008 estimate, the population was 50,151. Its county seat is Marion.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 446 square miles, of which, 442 square miles of it is land and 5 square miles of it (1.06%) is water.

Numerous small creeks and streams flow through the county. The Catawba River crosses the county and empties into Lake James. Almost half of the county is located inside the Pisgah National Forest. Linville Caverns is located in the far northern part of the county.

The Blue Ridge Parkway follows the northwestern boundary of the county. McDowell County lies within the Piedmont (United States) and Foothills (North Carolina) regions of Western North Carolina.

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