Float #83: French Broad River

4 Sep

Bent Creek to Jean Webb Park

F83_FrenchBroad

French Broad River
Henderson and Buncombe Counties, North Carolina
Monday, August 12
10 Miles

Our second float trip of our vacation to North Carolina was on the French Broad River, which runs through downtown Asheville. Earlier that morning we stopped by the Liquid Logic kayak factory to pick up a new boat for our friend Jake. A few months prior I ran across an artists call for entries that would exchange original works of art for a new kayak. The Liquid Logic company was building a new facility near Asheville and they wanted to fill it with unique artwork. I passed the article along to Jake, a painter and sculptor who was in need a of boat. To my delight, he was one of the artists they picked! We drove his artwork out to the Liquid Logic factory, took a tour of the facility and drove away with a brand new boat, paddle, PFD and skirt. It was really cool to see how the boats come together. We saw everything from the large ovens where kayaks are cooked in the molds, to how they are assembled and accessorized and even the design area where they test out new ideas.

Later that day we did a quick planning session to find our access points and headed to the river to christen Jake’s new boat. Asheville has several river parks with easy access points all along the waterway. There had been more rain than usual in the past week, so the water was up a little and muddy. I have heard that the water is almost always brown, so I guess we didn’t miss much on that point!

French Broad River

Bent Creek access

French Broad River

French Broad River

Jake and his new boat

The day had been very sunny and hot, but that soon changed. The sky started to cloud up and by mid-afternoon we were getting rained on. There weren’t any gravel bars visible and the banks were steep and overgrown, so there was no good place to pull over and wait out the storm. We paddled for about fifteen minutes before seeing a small arched bridge over a creek on the right side of the river. As the rain came down even harder we paddled over and took shelter under the bridge. It was just big enough for the three of us and our boats to hide without getting drenched. I don’t know exactly how long we camped out underneath, but it was probably about an hour. Every time the rain would let up, a few seconds later it would come down even harder. We caught a glimpse of a beaver who popped his head up right where we were sitting. He was quite startled and reentered the water with a loud splash, which in turn startled us! Eventually the sky brightened and the rain reduced to a drizzle, so we decided to paddle onward to our destination.

French Broad River

Taking shelter from the rain

French Broad River

Jake and DW

French Broad River

Fog rises from the hills after the storm

One cool thing about this stretch of the French Broad is that it flows parallel to the Biltmore Estate. You can catch a glimpse of the mansion from the river, which is the only way we could afford to see it. Admission to that attraction is not cheap!

French Broad River

The Biltmore

French Broad River

DW, Jake and the Biltmore in the background

French Broad River

A low bridge

French Broad River

The Biltmore hotel

French Broad River

The bridge at Jean Webb access

As we paddled past the Biltmore we came to a bridge that was a little bit low. If the water had been a foot higher we would have had to portage, but luckily we were able to pass underneath. There is a dedicated portage route on the right side of the river with signage to guide you. After the bridge we passed the Biltmore hotel and the rest of the estate grounds. On the left side of the river were several parks with access points and one with a campground. We passed under the interstate and one street bridge before we came to the bridge at our take out, a very small park under the overpass. This access is right across the street from The Wedge, a historic building with an artists’ studio space and a microbrewery. DW’s cousin-in-law, Cynthia was kind enough to help us run shuttle. Then we packed up our wet gear, changed into dry clothes and had a few beers at The Wedge Brewery.

Critter Count: Herons, 1 Beaver

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