What’s So Great About Asheville’s French Broad River?

What’s So Great About Asheville’s French Broad River?

If only the riverbanks could talk! The banks surrounding the French Broad River would have the most amazing tales to tell. That’s because this stately river is between 260 and 325 million years old. 

To put it in perspective, it was around before dinosaurs, which lived about 66 million years ago. Not only is the French Broad River one of the oldest rivers in the world, it’s also one that presents some of the coolest opportunities for adventure, relaxation and plain ole fun. 

The entire river stretches 218 miles, starting near the town of Rosman in North Carolina and flowing up into Tennessee. The section of the river that cuts through Asheville is particularly striking for its scenic views, as it flows through a variety of landscapes. 

The French Broad Is a White Water Rafting Dream

Shooting through those scenic landscapes on a raft or ducky rafting has to be the dreamiest paddling adventures yet. While many sections of the river are sweet and smooth, there are other areas that are downright thrilling

Section 9 of the French Broad is one of those areas. This section of the river consists of 5 miles of intermediate-level rapids that gush through a series of gorgeous gorges. The stretch starts at Barnard River Park, right where the water enters Pisgah National Forest. 

The forest offers 500,000 acres of natural beauty, with mile-high peaks, tree-lined slopes—and those gorgeous gorges we mentioned earlier. Even though Section 9 is peppered with class II and class III rapids, you’ll also get calmer waters where you can hop off the raft for an invigorating dip in the river.

Rafting Section 9 of the French Broad River is best done with a pro guide, and Asheville Adventure Company is a prime choice. It serves up the only whitewater rafting tour of Section 9 that departs from Asheville. Simply head to their headquarters, park, and leave everything else to the pros. 

The French Broad River is a Paddle Boarding Playground   

Paddle boarding is another activity the French Broad River begs you to try. Here you’ll want to hit sections of the river that are nice and calm, and you have plenty of places from which to choose. 

Once the river gets out of Rosman, it flattens out and flows through rural landscapes for miles and miles. This generous stretch of the river features class I rapids, perfect for paddling. So perfect, you’ll find dozens of access points for entering the river throughout Asheville and beyond. 

A few of the access points are around: 

You can find a slew of others listed on the French Broad River Paddle Trail website

The French Broad River Flows Through the Coolest Places 

While you’re paddling or rafting the waters of the French Broad, you’ll be treated to the most amazing sights. 

Wildlife Bonanza

The miles of rural landscape are alive with wildlife, as are the forested areas along Section 9. Birds abound, with Canadian geese, great blue herons, bald eagles, and other birds making the river watershed their home. You may also spy beavers, turtles, deer, river otter—and maybe even a bear. 

River Arts District  

The fun and funky River Arts District (RAD) is an Asheville artists’ haven. Located alongside Riverside Drive near the river, RAD is home to a diverse range of artists who create and sell their works. You’ll find hundreds of galleries and working studios bursting with creativity. 

Biltmore Estate 

The French Broad River winds through the Biltmore Estate, the historic home of George and Edith Vanderbilt that’s been transformed into a magnificent museum. The 8,000 acres of grounds surrounding the home feature nature at its finest, with a combination of dense forests and open meadows through which the river flows. 

The French Broad River Is an Overall Delight

You already know the French Broad River stretches for 218 miles and is one of the oldest rivers in the world. Here are a few more fun facts you can share on your paddling excursion or whitewater rafting adventure: 

The French Broad River is one of the few rivers that flows north instead of south. Look at the map and you’ll see it heading upward from Rosman until it curves west in Tennessee.  

The river is home to a number of rare fish and rare mussels, along with different species of trout, crappie, and bluegill.

The French Broad River was named to distinguish it from the other Broad River in the state. The territory the French Broad drained into was held by the French. The other Broad River was sometimes referred to as the English Broad River.

The average water temperature of the river in August is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The average January water temperature is 45 degrees. The French Broad River is almost always navigable, so if you can handle cold temperatures – you can raft or paddle year round! 

Now that you know why Asheville’s French Broad River is so great, it’s time to schedule a visit. Whether you take on a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure, a peaceful paddle boarding trip, or simply hike or picnic along its banks, you’ll enjoy your time with one of the oldest rivers in the world. Schedule your tour today with Asheville Adventure Company!

Published November 22, 2021