Frequently Asked Questions
What should I bring when I camp along the French Broad River Paddle Trail℠?
On the Water Gear:
Personal Floatation Device (PFD), sunscreen, hat, waterproof bag, French Broad River Map and/or GPS device, rain gear
Camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, camp stove), food and water, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, matches/lighter and tinder (such as newspaper), bug repellent, flashlight that is worn or mounted (headlamp), trash bags, tarp and rope
First aid kit, knife, whistle (audible for ½ mile), cell phone or marine radio, duct tape, drinking water, and extra PFD and paddle, rescue gear (throw bag, rope, carabineer)
1) Are toilets available at the campsites?
Yes, six of the WNCA campgrounds have toilets. During the summer months there will be porta-johns at Riverbend Campground (CG), Rhodes Ranch CG, and Buck Shoals CG. Also, Little River CG, Firefighter Island CG and Evan’s Island CG will have composting toilets available year-round. Independent, privately-owned campgrounds such as the Headwaters Outfitters CG, French Broad River CG, and Hot Springs CG, have facilities on site. French Broad River Fields (TN) is available for campers, but does not have any toilets. If using this site, we recommend using leave no trace practices (pack it in, pack it out) on this site, which is part of the Cherokee National Forest.
2) Can I receive a refund?
Refunds are not issued for weather related cancellations, but we are happy to help you rebook your reservation for another time, free of charge. Full refunds will be issued if cancellations are made with 72 hours of your reservation.
3) Can I drive to the campsites?
No, the Paddle Trail campsites are paddle-in only, accessible only from the river. Drive-in sites are available at seven independent, privately-owned campgrounds along the river.
4) Where do I park my car when camping along the FBR Paddle Trail℠?
Parking is available at most boat launches, but long-term/overnight parking is not recommended at the following locations (listed upstream to downstream): Champion Park, Lyons Mountain Rd Access, Island Ford River Access, Hap Simpson Park, Pisgah Forest Access, Pleasant Grove Rd Access, Banner Farm Rd Access, Haywood Rd (Hendersonville) Access, Wesfeldt Park, Ledbetter Rd Access, Bent Creek River Park, Hominy Creek River Park, French Broad River Park, Lyman St Access, Jean Webb River Park, Ledges Whitewater Park, Walnut Island River Park, Barnard Park, and Clark’s Landing in TN . Avoid leaving valuables in your car if possible.
5) Are there significant rapids on the French Broad, and where are they?
Section 9 of the French Broad, between Barnard Access and Hot Springs in Madison County, is well-known for whitewater (Class II, III, IV), and is where most commercial rafting companies launch rafts along the French Broad. This beautiful section offers thrills, but also serious hazards, and should not be attempted by beginning canoeists or kayakers. Rafters too, must take caution, and anyone floating this section should make sure to launch under safe conditions. If you are floating this section in a canoe or kayak, both major rapids can be avoided, but this section will still be quite challenging.
The ‘Windy Flats’ of section 9, a two-mile section downstream of the Stackhouse access, is very shallow, and is quite difficult to float when water levels get low. Rafts do not generally float this section when water runs below 1000 cfs, but canoes are able to. There are no take-outs on this 2 mile section, so assess the conditions before committing to this section.
There are intermittent rapids from just after the MSD to Douglas Lake, so be careful and plan accordingly. All rapids and dam locations can be found on the new Riverkeeper’s Guide to the French Broad map that will be available soon through this website and other outfitters in the region.
6) What are the rapids like along the French Broad River Paddle Trail℠?
Ideal levels for the whitewater enthusiast are from 1500 cfs to 3000 cfs. Most rapids are in section 9, ranging from classes 2-4, depending on water levels and which channels you run. We recommend checking American Whitewater (http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/state-summary/state/NC/) or USGS Current Conditions for the French Broad River at Marshall (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?03453500)
7) Where can I rent a canoe, kayak, or raft?
Check out the outfitters on our links page by clicking HERE.
8) What is the distance between campsites? Will I be able to paddle from each campsite to the next, without having to get off the water?
Campsites are located strategically, so that paddlers are able to paddle between each campsite to the next in a single day. The longest distance between sites is 15 miles, between Rhodes Ranch CG and Buck Shoals CG.
9) Are there any portages or obstacles to be aware of?
Yes, there are three dams on the French Broad River, and all three are challenging. The first one is downstream (North) of Asheville, and known as the ‘MSD’ Dam. Portaging around all three dams is not recommended as you will have to take out on rail road private property. If a portage is attempted, a portage around the MSD Dam would be best made on the River Left (across from the sewage treatment plant).The second one is the Marshall Dam, which involves portaging on the railroad tracks through downtown Marshall and over the Bailey Branch Road bridge before relaunching your boat on the Blannahassett Island. The third one is the Redmon Dam, downstream of Marshall, and we strongly discourage a portage around it. It is very dangerous for several reasons, and offers many ways to get injured. It is best to plan your trip to avoid portaging around these dams, as it can be dangerous, time-consuming and potentially illegal. All three can be done if necessary, but keep in mind that all three are very unpleasant, with varying degrees of danger, and should be avoided if possible.
Other obstacles: Be aware of strainers (any obstacle that water can pass through, but people and boats cannot), which can be quite dangerous to paddlers, especially during high water. Strainers are most often made up of recently fallen trees, or logjams. The section of river in Transylvania County is notorious for strainers, but don’t let this discourage you from paddling this excellent stretch of river. Most strainers in this area are only minor obstacles, are in flat-water, and can be navigated around.
10) I don’t have a lot of paddling experience, but would like to take a float trip and camp at a Paddle Trail℠ campsite. Where would be good to go?
Several sections of the French Broad offer great camping, scenery, and good water to gain experience on. The French Broad near Brevard is an excellent section of flat water, and offers some of the best Muskellunge fishing in North Carolina. The areas between Bent Creek and Hominy Creek Park in Asheville are slightly more challenging, but also make for a good beginner’s float.
11) Can I fish, swim, or drink the water?
Fishing is excellent on the French Broad but remember to get your NC and/or TN fishing license to do so legally. From Mud Creek to the Long Shoals Road bridge is impaired for bacteria and therefore is unsafe for swimming; swimming in other areas should be done at your own risk. Avoid drinking river water, as it can contain pathogens and pollutants. Water can be filtered from the river, but it is a better idea to bring extra water. If the river is muddy, it can make filtering water very difficult.
12) What wildlife might I see while paddling on the French Broad River?
The French Broad River flows through a great diversity of habitats and ecosystems. In the Transylvania and Henderson counties section, beavers are common and have been known to startle paddlers by slapping their tails on the water.
White squirrels inhabit the river area around Brevard. They are leucistic, which is similar to albino, and have been spotted near Island Ford Rd Access, Rhodes Ranch Campground in Etowah, and all over the Brevard area. Deer and muskrats are also common along the French Broad, and River otters can also be seen, but are a less common sight.
Some of the notable bird species that are seen along the French Broad include Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Kingfishers, Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Ospreys, Hawks and Bald Eagles. In Terms of aquatic ecology, the section of river between the town of Marshall and the Tennessee State line is the most biodiverse, with dozens of species of fish, as well as some rare mussel species.
13) What animals and plants should I be aware of for safety reasons?
Two varieties of poisonous snakes are found along the French Broad River, the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. Copperheads like to be near water, and like areas with lots of vines and debris, as their camouflage matches dead leaves. Their venom is not usually fatal, but a bite can have very serious consequences. Timber rattlers can be found in a wide variety of habitats including deciduous forests and rocky outcrops. Rattlesnake venom can be fatal, so avoid getting bit by this type of snake. Keep in mind, both the copperhead and timber rattler do not usually bite unless provoked or threatened.
Bears are found throughout Western North Carolina, so be bear-aware, but it is unlikely that you will see one while camping along the French Broad River Paddle Trail℠. Avoid leaving food out overnight, and store food away from your tent.
Poison ivy is widespread in the French Broad River watershed. Familiarize yourself with this plant so you can avoid it. Most of the campsites along the French Broad River Paddle Trail℠ have poison ivy in the area, but it is not a problem if you can recognize it, and avoid walking through or touching it. Prior to the summer camping season, poison ivy in the immediate vicinity of tent sites has been treated with herbicide.
Stinging nettles is also a nuisance plant..