Wednesday, July 19, 2023 / by Amy Brown
The third oldest river in the world flows through Asheville, the French Broad River. It has been the lifeblood of the region for centuries enabling industry and travel across the rugged mountain landscape. The river itself is as quirky as its location, flowing from south to north along the western edge of downtown. Today, it is Asheville’s watery playground with visitors and locals alike seen in inner tubes, kayaks, rafts, and canoes floating along her gentle shores.
On a bright summer day, you can see tubes tethered together with little river parties floating along usually from put-ins such as Hominy Creek. There are plenty of outfitters here where you can grab your gear such as Asheville Adventure Rentals or Zen Tubing. The float from Hominy Creek to Pearson Bridge is a popular one as it runs along the River Arts district where floaters can view local galleries from the water or take a break at one of the riverside breweries like Getaway River Bar and sample a craft brew.
For a bit more natural beauty, begin in Bent Creek and row through the Biltmore Estate. If the day is clear, you may get lucky and see the house and the inn from the water. Wai Mauna SUP Tours offers a “party barge” multi-person stand-up paddleboard for something more adventurous on this seven mile route. Or try Belly-yakking from Adam Masters. Any kind of boat makes for a great day on the water.
The French Broad is also a great river for fishing. There are plenty of small mouth bass, musky, trout, and catfish. And if you would rather skip the wet route, rent a bicycle from any outdoor center and ride alongside the riverbanks on the Wilma Dykeman Greenway. The greenway follows the river all the way through town with several meetups along the way.
Off the beaten path, take the Blue Ridge Parkway south towards Brevard and make a stop at Sliding Rock. This natural waterfall will take your breath away in its 55 degree waters as you slide down the rock formation into a mountain pool. It’s definitely a right of passage! Nearby you can visit beautiful Looking Glass Falls and the Pisgah National Forest as Transylvania county is known as the Land of Waterfalls.
The Green River Gorge located south of Asheville in Polk county is a great location for kayakers of all levels. The Lower Green is a perfect stretch for beginners while the Narrows which runs through the middle section is the home of the Green River Race bringing professional whitewater kayakers from all over the world to compete. The race is held annually in the late Fall with over 170 competitors and over 2000 spectators attending what is known as “The Greatest Show in All of Sports”. This is one of the most extreme whitewater kayak races in the world with competitive athletes such as Dane Jackson taking home the win. The race is usually covered by large networks such as CNN and Red Bull.
For a more beginner friendly whitewater experience, take a drive to the Nantahala gorge and visit the Nantahala outdoor center for whitewater rafting or kayaking. It’s also a great place to sit by the fire, eat some BBQ, and listen to music as they have live bands every weekend and an exciting ropes course for kids.
After that adrenaline rush, you might want to take a breather and head to the beach! We have two mountain lake beaches within a short drive of Asheville. Through the Hickory Nut Gorge you head through Chimney Rock and into the town of Lake Lure. This is the film location of Dirty Dancing but they also have a lovely beach on the lake with water slides, facilities, and restaurants within walking distance. On the eastern side of town you can head over to Marion to Lake James State Park. This beautiful mountain lake park offers boating, purpose built mountain bike trails, hiking, and picnicking. The beach has a relaxing swimming area with facilities for cookouts and a gorgeous view of the slick rock faces surrounding the water.