French Broad River Paddling

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The French Broad is a beautiful river drainage (actually the 3rd oldest in the world) that has something for everyone. From its beginnings near Rosman, NC, the French Broad flows over 140 miles through the NC and TN mountains, eventually terminating in Douglas Lake near Newport, TN. This entire stretch of river can be tackled in a 10+ day trip, or segmented off into unique day or weekend trips.

Written by

Chris Gragtmans

Destination Distance From Downtown

21.7 miles


3 of 5 diamonds


Time To Complete

Depends on section


All Seasons

Fees Permits


Land Website

Link to Website


This river is a major artery in the Blue Ridge water system and is a beautiful one to experience from a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Class V aficionados will love the source, with the West Fork, North Fork, and Courthouse Creek offering up plenty of adrenaline after rain events. From the confluence, recently developed campsite/access sites create a truly unique experience for paddlers. It is now possible to travel by water the entire course of the French Broad, sleeping at campsites every 8-10 miles. This network is called the French Broad Paddle Trail, and is still a very under-appreciated resource- it is awesome! 


Courthouse Falls | Class V 
Awesome roadside 40 foot waterfall for expert kayakers… only runnable after heavy rain events. 
North Fork French Broad | 7.2 miles | Class IV+ 
The classic class IV creek in the area! This is a high quality section that many local creek boaters cut their teeth on. The two largest named drops are Boxcar and Submarine. 
West Fork French Broad | 3.4 miles | Class V 
An additional class V option in the area. Larger rapids and more bedrock slides than the North Fork… caution for wood and potholes! 
Confluence – Rosman | 7 miles | Class II 
After the confluence, the French Broad proper flows through a very nice, continuous class II section of river. 
Rosman – Craggy Dam | 59 miles | Class I 
Downstream of Rosman, the river flattens out and winds through pastoral lands for many miles. Paddlers will pass by Dupont State Forest, lots of farmland, private residences, the Biltmore, and downtown Asheville before reaching Woodfin Dam. Below this, the whitewater gets noticeably more intense all the way to the river’s terminus… 
Craggy Dam – Lake Douglas | 75 miles | Class II-IV 
This is a scenic stretch with great whitewater. Paddlers wind out of the greater Asheville area and head into a truly beautiful section of the mountains, including the famous Section 9 intermediate whitewater run, and then through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Two other dams must be portaged through the course of the river’s journey, and prior research of portage trails is advised. 


Confluence (North Fork/West Fork Takeouts + FBPT Putin) 
25 Parkway Rd. Rosman, NC 28772 
Bent Creek Access 
1592 Brevard Rd. Asheville, NC 28806 
Hominy Access 
194 Hominy Creek Rd. Asheville, NC 28806 
Ledges Access 
1080 Old Marshall Hwy. Alexander, NC 28701 
Lake Douglas/Rankin Bridge Access 
Holt Town Rd. Newport, TN 37821

Important Info 

American Whitewater (granular detail on whitewater sections). 
Bywater (highly recommended watering hole in Asheville) 
**Do not exit boat on Biltmore property- you will run into trouble from security! ?

Unique Experiences 

Family Overnighters 
The upper French Broad from Rosman to Asheville is a great place for a child’s first overnight trip. The many access points along the French Broad Paddle Trail allow convenient camping, planning, as well as the option of non-paddlers to drive out and join. 
Paddling through the Biltmore is a fun, scenic, and very accessible option from Asheville. The section from Bent Creek to Hominy Creek (addresses above) is just over six miles, and can be enjoyed in raft, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or even tube. 
Ledges Attainments 
Ledges Park provides a great tool for local paddlers to tune their skills. Playboating is an option at this park, as well as the local extreme racers’ staple- attainments loops. 
Hot Springs 
Pull off the river in this cozy mountain town for a dip in the geothermal hot springs.

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French Broad River Paddling

Barnard Road
Marshall, NC, 28754
35.83925, -82.75409

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