||French Broad River, NC
Barnard to Hot Springs
700 cfs (minimum to TO @ Stackhouse)
||The gauge closest to the
put-in is the French
Broad at Marshall. This gauge is not available on the
TVA's flow line (800-238-2264) or flow page (TVA
Streamflows), though the French Broad at Asheville and the
French Broad at Newport are. The level on the Marshall
gauge is usually about half way between the levels on the Asheville
and Newport gauges, unless there has been a big rain upstream whose
waters have only just begun to move down the river.
1,200 cfs (minimum to TO @ Hot Springs)
||Cruising, with good play and surfing at
||Pretty, in a wide, forested canyon with
only occasional obvious signs of development
|Distance from Downtown
Asheville (to take-out):
||8.1 miles (4.1 to alternate take-out at
||Year round (best levels in Spring)
Broad, Biltmore Run (I-II), French
Broad, Section 6 (I-II+), French
Broad, Section 8 (I-II), many more
||Hot Springs, NC
|Directions from Asheville
||43 minutes. Head north out of
Asheville on US 19/23. Take the US 25/70 (Marshall) exit.
Follow US 25/70 all the way to the outskirts of Hot Springs (this
will require making a left turn to cross the Big Laurel -- if you
are a typical paddler you will park after making the turn and check
the gauge painted on river left beneath the bridge). Just
before crossing the bridge into town, turn right, then left to go
under the bridge and upstream to the rafting outpost parking area.
Directions to the alternate take-out at Stackhouse: Head
north out of Asheville on US 19/23. Take the US 25/70
(Marshall) exit. Follow US 25/70 19 miles to State Road
1139/1319 (Stackhouse Road). Look for it on your left shortly
after you pass USA Raft. Turn left and follow Stackhouse Road
downhill all the way to the river.
||20 minutes each way. Retrace your
steps back to the "T" intersection after the bridge over
the Big Laurel. Turn right with US 25/70 to continue retracing
your steps all the way to the State Road 1151 (Barnard Road).
Turn right onto Barnard Road and follow it downhill all the way to
the river (be alert, there are some twists and turns). The
put-in is on river right just upstream of the bridge.
|Other access points:
||Stackhouse, hike into Frank Bell's Rapid,
||There are camping and lodging
opportunities aplenty in Hot Springs. My family and I like the
Bluff USFS Campground (828-622-3202; open the Rocky
Bluff file with the free adobe
acrobat reader). Open May 1 to October 31, this campground
has a short nature trail running alongside Spring Creek. To
get there, take NC 209 South three miles out of town, heading toward
the put-in for Spring Creek. Campsites cost $8 a night.
To learn more, check out Gorp's
Rocky Bluff page. Other campgrounds include the Hot
Springs Campground, conveniently located on the river and the
USFS's Silvermine Group Campground (828-622-3202).
There are many, many rustic bed and breakfasts in Hot Springs.
I know several paddlers who have been married at The
Duckett House, for example, and another couple who were married
Patch but had their reception at the Rock House. The most
unique bed and breakfast, however, has to be Elmer Hall's Sunnybank
Inn (828-622-7206). Extremely popular with AT through
hikers, a stay at Elmer's includes a family-style vegetarian dinner
and breakfast and a chance to converse with an extremely eclectic
assortment of guests. In a former life Elmer was a Methodist
minister at Duke University; his library is extensive.
Most find the Sunnybank Inn through word of mouth. Here are
some of those words: Google
Search on Elmer and the Sunnybank Inn. And for the two of
you who are chomping at the bit for pricier accommodations, here are
a couple additional
Hot Springs lodging options.
||24 fpm to Hot Springs; 27 to Stackhouse
||8.1 or 4.1 miles:
16, 21, 39, 32, 20, 20, 26, 19, 10 fpm over last 0.13 miles
||41 fpm (over 0.97 miles)
||Maximum half Mile:
Whitewater's French Broad Section 9 Page
||Bob and David Benner's Carolina
Whitewater: A Canoeist's Guide to the Western Carolinas
Springs Spa's Map to Hot Springs
French Broad Photo Archive
||Frank Bell's Rapid is named after one of
the pioneers of southeastern whitewater. I'm often asked if
we're related, and while he's someone I'd love to be able to claim,
to my disappointment we're not. Learn more about this
fascinating character by reading reading Gordon
Grant's 1993 Obituary for Frank Bell Senior.
Guess how Hot Springs got its name! Consider reserving
yourself a tub at the Hot
Springs Spa (828-622-7676 or 800-462-0933; see the price
list in the preceding link). The most private tubs are numbers 5
& 6. Most paddlers take out at the rafting outpost on
river right 1/3 mile upstream, but if you timed it right you could
paddle directly to the tubs on river left. Retrieve the bottle
of wine from the truck, change out of your river clothes in a
changing room, shower, and relax in a hot tub. What could be
finer? You can even reserve a massage!
Do a Google
Search on Hot Springs and you'll get a lot of interesting hits.
I've found the Sherpa
Guide to Hot Springs useful, and Hot
Spring's history interesting reading. Consider timing a
trip to the French Broad to coincide with the annual French
Broad River Festival.
This is a great run for intermediate paddlers. Its greatest
challenge for those beginning to build their skills is its width.
It is only slightly harder than the Nantahala if one sneaks the two
most difficult drops, Kayaker's Ledge (III at all but high levels)
and Frank Bell's (IV- at all but high levels). Both are easily
sneaked: they occur in the channels on the river right sides
of large islands. Run the left sides of the islands and you'll
miss them entirely.
Kayaker's Ledge comes at the end of the long, flat, relatively
shallow section of the river called Windy Flats. Windy Flats
begins below Stackhouse, about the point the railroad tracks cross
Big Laurel Creek. The island on whose right side Kayaker's
Ledge forms is about 130 steep feet high and occurs at a sharp right
hand bend in the river. Scout Kayaker's Ledge before running
it -- it creates an obvious horizon line.
The pair of small islands on whose right sides Frank Bell's Rapid
forms are located about a half mile below Kayaker's Ledge and about
a quarter mile below the last of the series of small islands below
the main island at Kayaker's Ledge. There is a great ender
spot at the bottom of Frank Bell's, a good enough spot that in the
days when enders were king we'd sometimes walk our boats the 2/3rds
of a mile up the railroad tracks from the end of the road on the
river left side of the river just to do them. If memory
serves, 1,000 cfs was the optimum ender level.
Section 9 varies significantly with changes in water level.
Many consider levels between 2,000-4,000 cfs on the Marshall gauge
the most fun because higher water begins to wash out some of the
drops and lower water can lead to a very long paddle through Windy
Flats. Although this stretch of river does not have an upper
limit, with the increase in power and speed that comes with very
high water levels it ceases to be a good intermediate run.
Craig Stickney, who has paddled it about as often as anyone the past
couple years -- both in a hardboat and as a raft guide --
characterizes the different levels as follows:
||Lots of rocks, and even the plants growing on
the rocks are visible. Interesting to see once or twice,
but not a lot of fun. At 300 cfs some rapids are very
interesting just to get through
||At this level, there are plenty of rocks and the
rapids are shallow. Don't bother going below Stackhouse
from 1200 cfs down, super scrapy (and even at 1200 cfs
everything below there isn't worth the paddle). Sandy
Bottoms wave (next to FBRC lunch spot) is nice and wide around
1000-1200 cfs, although rather short in height.
||Good level for folks just learning. The
rapids are all there. Eddy lines and surf waves start to
get fun, although the Sandy bottoms wave is pretty poor at
most of these levels.
||The rapids start to get fun. Many more
surf waves form above 1900 cfs. Big Pillow is a
cartwheel spot around 2000 cfs as well.
||The river turns much more into wave trains than
Rock Gardens. Surf waves abound, although there isn't
any eddy service for most. The bright orange/brown water
||Even whitewater snobs will enjoy the river from
here up. Some rapids start to get largish holes, but
nothing to really worry about.
||I've only done it a few times between 5000 cfs
and 8000 cfs. Really, Really fun. More like the
New in West Virginia. Waves of 6-8 feet. Zero
technicality, just miss a couple of holes.
For descriptions of the many runs in the Asheville area less
challenging than Section 9 -- including seven on the French Broad --
see Betsy Mayers' Paddling
Asheville: 28 Gently Exciting Regional River Trips.
This very well done guide for those interested in paddling class
I-II in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee includes put-ins,
take-outs, directions from Asheville, landmarks by river mile,
excellent maps and general comments. For less detailed descriptions
of every run on the French Broad from its headwaters near Rosman, NC
into Tennessee, see Bob and David Benner's Carolina
Whitewater: A Canoeist's Guide to the Western Carolinas.