Follow the River
Exploring the Upper French Broad 
With summer at full tilt, we’re all looking for opportunities to relax, cool down and find a quiet spot to enjoy some of the best parts of the season. Transylvania County is known for its waterfalls and forests, the winding paths through the woods, and the high vistas above it all. But some of the county’s most unique scenery can be experienced from alongside a cold mountain stream or from the perch of a canoe or kayak on the French Broad River a few miles southwest of downtown Brevard. 

The French Broad River, the third oldest in the world, runs through some of western North Carolina’s most spectacular landscapes as it flows toward Tennessee. Its headwaters, which are located in Transylvania County, are fed by the pristine waters of the North, East and West Forks.

Whether you’re a paddler or a fisherman, you can lean on the expertise of our local outfitters to help you create an unforgettable day on the water. Headwaters Outfitters specializes in paddling trips starting in Rosman. They also rent boats and equipment for those wanting to float the river on their own timetable. There are multiple put-in and take-out options in Transylvania County, allowing you to customize your own adventure. Western North Carolina Alliance offers a comprehensive French Broad River Paddle Trail Map that highlights key access points, campsites and other highlights, available here. 

To David Whitmire, Program Director at Headwaters Outfitters, there is something special about the French Broad’s headwaters. 

“The water is so clear,” says Whitmire. “The best water quality along the river is right at the source.” 

Bird lovers are likely to see a wide range of species along the river as well, including wood ducks, white egrets, blue herons and even the occasional bald eagle. Sharp-eyed visitors will also see otters, muskrats and beavers. 

Davidson River Outfitters, headquartered in Brevard, offers a full range of half-day and full-day guided fishing trips. And for those who are new to the sport, the guides at Davidson River Outfitters will be glad to offer personalized instruction, from fly-fishing to fly-tying to rod building. 

Kevin Howell, owner of Davidson River Outfitters, is particularly fond of the East, West and North Forks of the French Broad River as a destination for fly fishermen. 

“The East Fork is probably equal to the Davidson River, which is rated as one of the top 100 trout streams in the country” says Howell, “it’s part of the delayed harvest program by the state.”

That means the East Fork is typically stocked on the first day of October, November, April and May. During that time of year, it’s catch and release, artificial lure, single hook only. From the first of June to September 30th, anglers can keep fish. 

Both outfitters also monitor local river conditions on a daily basis, and you can find the reports on their respective websites. Fishing licenses can be purchased online at the North Carolina Wildlife Commission website.

For those who’d like to try something a little different, Oxbow River Snorkeling gives water lovers a chance to explore the Upper French Broad River in search of the eastern hellbender salamander, native freshwater mussels and other fascinating freshwater wildlife. 

No matter what section of the Upper French Broad River you plan to explore, we suggest bringing along a lunch to enjoy at a shady picnic site. Two popular choices include Champion Park in Rosman or Hap Simpson Park just south of Brevard. Many local restaurants will be happy to prepare the perfect repast for you and your crew. Explore tasty restaurant picnic options here. 

Once you come off the river, the Upper French Broad River area offers more than just paddling or fishing. It’s a perfect jumping off point to explore nearby trails in Pisgah National Forest, Gorges State Park and along the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment near Toxaway. 

“The truth is, we’re close to pretty much everything,” says Whitmire. “You can come off the river and be at DuPont, Gorges, or even downtown Brevard itself within minutes. Your paddling, fishing or snorkeling adventure can just be one part of a great day.”

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Read the previous Field Notes here

Brought to you by Transylvania County Tourism

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