What makes the French Broad River so important to the ecology of Transylvania County?
It connects a lot of special and unique places. It drains a lot of small, but very significant tributaries – the Swannanoa, the Little, the Davidson, in addition to the North, West and East Forks of the French Broad. These tributaries represent a great variety of elevations and as a result are rich in plant and animal diversity. The French Broad River ties it all together in a really neat way.
What kind of biodiversity exists in the French Broad River watershed?
The Southern Appalachians were not glaciated during the ice age, and thus biodiversity remained strong during that time. With the variety of elevations plus our true four-season climate you have a perfect environment for really rich biodiversity.
For example, common aquatic life includes large- and small-mouth bass, walleye, crappie, muskie, brown trout, and rainbow trout, salamanders, crayfish, beaver, and river otter. If you spend any time on the water, you’ll see great blue heron, osprey, kingfisher, cormorant, bald eagles, and mallard and wood ducks, not to mention a wide variety of other bird life.
Much of the river has a strong riparian buffer. A wide and healthy riparian buffer helps create strong riverbanks, lessens erosion, and serves as a kind of filter to maintain water quality. In terms of the riparian flora, you’ll see sycamore, dogwood, elderberry, blackberry, tulip poplar, hemlock, and willow.
What makes the headwaters of the French Broad River different from other parts of it?
The headwaters are mostly within protected public lands and are generally steeper and more forested. This results in abundant biodiversity and cooler temperatures. You have a lot of talented white-water kayakers who enjoy taking on the cascading sections of tributaries like the North Fork of the French Broad. Once you get beyond the confluence, the river is shallow and meandering and very intimate -- before it gets wider and more open. Personally, I like the headwaters, it’s the cleanest and the earliest in its journey.