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Watauga County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2000, the population was 42,695. Its county seat is Boone.

The county was formed in 1849 from parts of Ashe County, Caldwell County, Wilkes County, and Yancey County. It was named for the Watauga River, whose name is said to be a Native American word, the meaning of which is in dispute among various histories with translations ranging from beautiful water, whispering waters, village of many springs, and river of islands, to name a few.

In 1861 parts of Watauga County, Burke County, Caldwell County, McDowell County, and Yancey County were combined to form Mitchell County. In 1911, parts of Watauga County, Caldwell County, and Mitchell County were combined to form Avery County.

Country music pioneer Al Hopkins was born in Watauga County in 1889.

Eight-time Grammy Award winner Doc Watson was born in Watauga County in 1923.

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