Located in the foothills of western North Carolina lies Polk County, with a population of just over 20,000 citizens.
Polk County was formed in 1855 from parts of Henderson County (to the west) and Rutherford County (to the east). Polk County is named after William Polk, a colonel in the Revolutionary War.
The county encompasses 239 square miles and ranges in elevation from just under 800 feet (above sea level) to just over 3,200 feet on Tryon Peak.
Polk County is home to three municipalities - Tryon, Columbus, and Saluda. Columbus serves as the county seat for Polk County. There are three additional townships - Cooper's Gap (the Sunny View and Mill Spring area), Green Creek, and White Oak (covering parts of Columbus and Mill Spring).
The interchange for I-26 and the U.S. 74 highway is located in Columbus. Interstate 26 provides Polk County with easy access to the cities of Johnson City, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina to the north, and Spartanburg, South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and the port of Charleston, South Carolina to the southeast. Interstate 26 junctions with the major Interstates of I-85 and I-40 are within a half-hour and forty minutes, respectively. East on U.S. 74 goes to Charlotte, North Carolina, and eventually to the port of Wilmington, North Carolina. Proximity to these highways places Polk County in a strategic position for potential business development in the future.
Polk County is also served by an additional highway, U.S. Highway: U.S. Route 176. This was the primary highway linking Saluda and Tryon to Hendersonville, North Carolina and Spartanburg, S.C. prior to the delayed completion of I-26 in 1976. Two North Carolina routes, N.C. 108 and N.C. 9, traverse the county as well. N.C. 108 begins in Rutherfordton, North Carolina and travels west through Columbus and ends at U.S. 176 in Tryon. Oriented north-to-south, N.C. 9 connects Black Mountain, North Carolina and Lake Lure, North Carolina to Spartanburg and points southeast via Polk County. N.C. 108 and N.C. 9 intersect in Mill Spring.
Polk County and Saluda are infamous among railroad enthusiasts for the Saluda Grade, the steepest standard-gauge mainline railway grade in the United States. Norfolk Southern suspended freight traffic indefinitely along this route in December 2001. The track remains in place for reopening the line in the future.
Polk County operates under a County Manager and a 5 person Board of Commissioners.