Taking a tour of the French Broad Paddle Trail is a great summer adventure that could encompass a day, an overnight camping trip or a multiple-day getaway. It’s a great way to get decompress and gain a new perspective on a valuable waterway. It’s all within easy reach from Asheville.
I’d heard about the French Broad Paddle Trail here and there over the past couple of years, but the info didn’t really sink in. I’m a recreational river-user, usually out on a Saturday with the floats and boats running through Asheville and usually ending at the Bywater. When I received an invitation to take a paddle trail tour organized by the environmental nonprofit MountainTrue, and one led by French Broad RiverKeeper Hartwell Carson, I decided to join. My boxer mutt Sammie was also welcomed.
We started at the headwaters of the river in Rosman, a little over an hour southwest of Asheville. I met up with Hartwell and the group of about 25 or so paddlers. There were first-time-in-a-kayak folks and lake boaters who had never been on a river, as well as French Broad Paddle Trail veterans. The trip would take five days, but me and Sammie were just paddling Saturday, camping overnight, paddling all day Sunday and then heading back to reality. A few others just did the two-day, while the rest would continue on.
It was a laid back, almost lazy, tour. Perfect for a beautiful late spring weekend. Me and Sammie teamed up in a canoe with Alex and took our time taking in the scenery and chatting up fellow paddlers about flora, fauna and wildlife spotted along the way (an otter, kingfishers and many other birds, a crayfish, more).
We hit the first campsite about 6 p.m. or so. The MountainTrue staff had piled all our camping gear into a couple of vans and driven it to the first camping site, so all we had to do was pull our boats out of the water, find our gear and pitch our tents. The MoutainTrue folks set up snacks, started a campfire and began barbecuing some chicken. Beer was supplied by Oskar Blues. The group socialized around the campfire, had a delicious meal and had a blast with a kanjam tournament organized by Hartwell.
Sunday morning, the group woke up to heavy rain that made decamping kinda suck, but the rain and the clouds cleared by about 10 a.m. We just rolled down the French Broad, stopping for lunch (again with food supplied by MountainTrue) about noon and stopping for a break before arriving at the second campsite near Brevard. That’s where I got out, but another great meal and a tour of Oskar Blues brewery in Brevard was on tap for the rest.
A trip like this is why we live in Asheville. It’s so close and easy to get away. And the easy adventure is a great reminder of the importance of caring for our surrounding environment. Check it out, folks.
For more details:
Here’s the official website for the French Broad Paddle Trail. MountainTrue has just a handful of the tours like the one described above, so stay tuned to them for dates and to sign up. They sell out. If you go it alone, you have to make a reservation, but reservations are cheap. You don’t have to take an official tour to try it out. Get out and do it.
RomanticAsheville has more detail on the French Broad Paddle Trail:
The French Broad River Paddle Trail opened in 2012 to connect more than 140 miles of the French Broad River. The Trail serves to protect the river as a resource for recreation, environmental stewardship, education, and economic development. The low impact water trail with, Leave No Trace paddle with eight campsites spaced about 12-15 miles apart. The campsites are all paddle in-only sites and located on private land with reservations made through MountainTrue. Campsites vary in size. Three additional campsites by RiverLink are be free and open to the public, without reservations.
What a cool trip, Jason. I’ve done that stretch once before on a solo-paddle, and I’ve been yearning to go back and complete the full length of the French Broad. Glad you were able to get out for a cool weekend adventure.
Glad you could make it! Great times on the river!