Center for Cultural Preservation presents “Savior of the French Broad River: The Wilma Dykeman Story” on Feb. 23

From a press release from the Center for Cultural Preservation: The Cherokee who lived along the banks of the French Broad River called it “the long man” and the creeks that fed it “the chattering children.” The French Broad is considered one of the oldest rivers in the world and today it has become a key recreational area with tens of thousands each year enjoying its waters for fishing, boating, swimming, while Asheville’s River Arts District has become an important destination for many.

But at one time, the river had declined to become a toxic cesspool as a result of paper factory runoff, straight piping of sewage and more. Wilma Dykeman, an author of 18 books, was livid that people had forgotten that rivers are more than bodies of water, but a living breathing organism that connects people and wildlife and community. Through her landmark book, The French Broad, and her activism, long before the environmental movement took off, Dykeman wrote that it was a false choice to choose between protecting the environment and protecting jobs. You can have both. “There is only one respectable course for a free citizen and that is to shoulder his share of the responsibility for the ‘killing,’ for the pollution,” Dykeman said, ” because, just as the river belongs to no one, it belongs to everyone and everyone is held accountable for its health and condition.”

The Center for Cultural Preservation is pleased to be able to celebrate Wilma Dykeman, a true hero of mountain culture and our area’s natural inheritance by hosting a program along with the Wilma Dykeman Legacy Foundation featuring Jim Stokely, Wilma’s son, in a multi-media presentation about Wilma’s life, her legacy and her impact today.

“The Savior of the French Broad River — The Wilma Dykeman Story” will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 23 at Blue Ridge Community College’s Thomas Auditorium. There is a $5 registration fee and advanced registration is strongly recommended by registering online at or calling the Center at (828) 692-8062. In case of inclement weather, the weather date is Thursday, March 2 at the same time and location.

The Wilma Dykeman program will be followed on March 30 with a special performance on the history of mountain music, from the highlands of Scotland and Ireland to the Southern Appalachians, titled “Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland/Ulster to Appalachia.”

On Saturday, May 6 at Tigg’s Pond Retreat Center, a signature presentation of the Center’s new film, Come Hell or High Water: Remembering the 1916 Flood will be screened including musical performances, hors d’oeuvres and hard cider.

The Center for Cultural Preservation is a cultural nonprofit organization dedicated to working for mountain heritage continuity through oral history, documentary film, education and public programs. For more information about the Center contact them at (828) 692-8062 or

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"The French Broad River is the third oldest river in the world."

Blue Ridge Heritage National Heritage Area