What resources are there to help me plan my trip?

We have developed paddle trail map to assist in your trip planning, which includes critical river information and resources.

Check out our Paddle Trail Forum, to learn from others experience and share your adventures on the river.

What should I bring when camping on the French Broad River Paddle Trail?

Paddling Gear:

Camping Gear:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camp pillow
  • Camp stove
  • Food and water
  • Toilet paper
  • Matches or lighter
  • Flashlight
  • Trash bags
  • Wag bag (or the like)
  • Camping/hand shovel
  • Charcoal and/or firewood
  • Firestarter (newspaper etc)

Safety Gear:

  • Emergency contact numbers
  • First Aid Kit
  • Knife
  • Whistle
  • Extra PFD
  • Cell phone or marine radio
  • Throw bag
  • Rope
  • Carabineer
  • Duct tape
  • Drinking water

Where do I find out information about river levels?

USGS River Gages are on our online map

Rosman (Transylvania County)

Rosman River Levels
Blantyre (Henderson County)

Blantyre River Levels
Fletcher (Buncombe County – Asheville Airport)

Fletcher River Levels

Asheville River Levels
Marshall (Madison County)

Hot Springs (Madison County below Section 9)

Hot Springs
Newport, Tennessee

Newport, TN
Campsite descriptions include river level at which flooding occurs, if the campsite has a risk of flooding.

Are there any hazards or significant rapids on the French Broad, and where are they?

There are three (3) dams on the French Broad River; these can be found on the interactive map.

  • Craggy Dam – 10’ Weir Dam – Buncombe County – USGS mile 140. This dam is located just north of Asheville. There is an informal unimproved portage on river left. There are signs designating the portage.
  • Capitola Dam – 8’ Weir Dam – Madison County – USGS mile 124. This Dam is located just south of the town of Marshall.  You can exit the river above the dam at the river park owned by the Town of Marshall and shuttle through town to Blannahasset Island, or below the Redmond Dam. There is a long portage on the river right. The exit is easy via a grassy bank but boats must be carried or dragged through Marshall due to a flood wall and railroad track that line the river through Marshall.
  • Redmon Dam – 24’ Weir Dam –Madison County – USGS mile 121. This Dam is located north of the Town of Marshall. There is currently no portage around the dam. There is a river access point just below the dam.

Section 9 of the French Broad River in Madison County, from Barnard River Access Park to Hot Springs, is known for class II-IV whitewater (depending on water level). Many commercial rafting companies are located in the area and serve this section of the river, launching rafts at Barnard. These companies are listed on the interactive map.

What are the rapids like of the French Broad River?

Please review our suggested trips and Paddle Trail community forum for specifics on the rapids on the river, as they vary between sections.

What are the campsites amenities?

Campsite amenities vary between sites. Please see the campsite descriptions on the interactive map to see what amenities are available at each site.

How do I know if I’m at a campsite?

  • All campsites are designated with a Paddle Trail campsite sign.
  • The banks of the French Broad are predominantly owned by private landowners. Trespassing is forbidden, so please make sure you are at a public access area or a public campsite.
  • All campsites require a reservation. To reserve a campsite, click here.

Are there restroom facilities along the trail?

We promote Leave No Trace principles and practices along the trail. Although there are some facilities along the trail.

  • Champion Park – Restroom located in Swimming Pool Facility – open 12:30-6pm Monday-Saturday, and 1-6pm on Sundays from late May through August.
  • Carrier Park – Restrooms located in at the track facilities
  • French Broad River Park – Restrooms located near parking lot
  • Barnard River Access Park – Restrooms located near parking lot
  • Campsites with restrooms
    • Riverbend Campsite – Composting toilet – open may-august
    • Little River Campsite- Composting toilet- open year round
    • Firefighter Island – Composting toilet – open year round
    • Big Pine Campsite – Composting toilet – open year round
    • Evans Island – Composting toilet – open year round

Can I drive to the campsites?

No, the campsites are all paddle-in/paddle-out, only accessible from the river. Drive-in sites are available at independent privately owned campgrounds. These campgrounds and locations can be found on the Paddle Trail map.

Where can I rent paddling equipment?

Outfitters which rent and sell equipment are listed on our interactive map.

What are the distances between campsites?

The distances between campsites vary. Campsites are located strategically, so paddlers are able to paddle between campsites in a day.

Are there any poisonous or dangerous plants or animals I should know about before going on the river?

Yes. The French Broad River is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the southeast. We have two (2) species of poisonous snakes, copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. Bears are also found throughout our region. Additionally, poison ivy, a toxic plant is widespread in the region.

  • Copperheads like to be near or in the water, often in trees along stream banks. Their venom is not usually fatal, but a bit can have serious consequences through infection and the venom. Seek immediate medical attention if you are bit.
  • Timber Rattlesnakes can be found in a variety of habitats including rocky outcrops and deciduous forests. Their venom can be fatal. Seek immediate medical attention if you are bit.
  • Poison Ivy is a plant that causes a skin rash if the plant makes contact with skin. The rash is caused by contact with oil (urushiol). The oil is present in all parts of the plants, including the leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and roots. Familiarize yourself with this plant and avoid walking through or touching it. Do not burn it – smoke inhalation can cause allergic reaction. If you touch poison ivy, wash contacted skin and/or clothing immediately after contact to prevent skin reaction. (Picture & link)
  • Bears are widespread and common throughout the French Broad River Watershed. Please be aware, even though it is unlikely you will see one. Please avoid leaving food out overnight, and store away from tent.

What are Leave No Trace Practices and Principles?

There are seven (7) principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Be Prepared
    • Learn about river-specific issues, regulations, and permits.
    • Use river guidebook and map to plan your trip.
    • Schedule your trip so that you encounter appropriate river flows for your group’s ability.
    • Schedule your visit to avoid times of high use; visit in small groups.
    • Repackage food to minimize waste.
    • Know river skills and carry necessary equipment to minimize your impact.
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
    • Camp only at designated campsites.
    • Durable surfaces include rock, gravel, and sand.
    • Focus activity where vegetation is absent.
    • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
    • Select campsites large enough for your group.
    • Leave campsites clean and natural looking.
    • When on day hikes in the river corridor, walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when muddy.
    • In pristine areas, disperse use to prevent creation of new trails or campsites.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
    • Pack it in, pack it out.
    • Use washable, reusable toilet or other approved method to pack out human waste, toilet paper and tampons. http://www.cleanwaste.com/wag-bag
    • Liquid wastes can be dumped into main current in many high volume (over 500 cfs) rivers. In low volume rivers, scatter liquid waste 200 ft. from water, campsites, and trails.
    • Urinating directly into the river is often the best option.
    • Use a tarp in the kitchen to catch food and trash.
    • Pack out all small food particles and trash.
  • Leave What you Find
    • Appreciate ancient structures, artifacts, rock art, and other natural objects, but leave them undisturbed.
    • Do not build structures or dig trenches in campsites.
    • Avoid introducing non-native species, including live bait, by cleaning equipment between trips.
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
    • Minimize campfire impacts by using camp stoves.
    • Use a fire pan or designated fire ring for open fires and charcoal.
    • Elevate fire pan and use fire blanket to catch embers.
    • Use dead and downed wood.
    • Consider bringing your own firewood.
    • Burn all wood and charcoal to ash. Carry out ash with other garbage.
  • Respect Wildlife
    • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
    • Never feed wildlife; it damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
    • Protect wildlife by storing food and trash securely.
    • Control pets or leave them at home.
    • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, or when food is scarce.
  • Be Considerate of Others
    • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
    • Communicate with other river visitors about your floating and camping plans.
    • Leave larger campsites for large groups, or share the space.
    • Avoid camping or eating near major rapids where scouting and portaging take place.
    • Non-motorized crafts usually have right-of-way over powerboats; slower boats should keep to the right.
    • Downstream boat has right-of-way.
    • Let nature’s sounds prevail.

What does class III rapids mean? How do they categorize river rapids?

The International Scale of River Difficulty is a standardized scale used to rate the safety of a stretch of river, or a single rapid. The grade reflects the technical difficulty and skill level required associated with the section of river. There are six levels each referred to as “Grade” or “Class” followed by a number. The scale is not linear, nor is it fixed. For instance, there can be hard grade twos, easy grade threes, and so on. The grade of a river may change with the level of flow. Often a river or rapid will be given a numerical grade, and then a plus (+) or minus (-) to indicate if it is in the higher or lower end of the difficulty level.

  • Class I: Easy
    • Waves small; passages clear; no serious obstacles.
  • Class II: Medium
    • Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear. Requires experience plus suitable outfit and boat.
  • Class III: Difficult
    • Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering; scouting usually needed. Requires good operator and boat.
  • Class IV: Very Difficult
    • Long rapids; waves high, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; best passages difficult to scout; scouting mandatory first time; powerful and precise maneuvering required. Demands expert boatman and excellent boat and good quality equipment.
  • Class V: Extremely Difficult
    • Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent current; very steep gradient; close study essential but often difficult. Requires best person, boat, and outfit suited to the situation. All possible precautions must be taken.
  • Class U or VI: Unraftable
    • Formerly classified as unrunnable by any craft. This classification has now been redefined as “unraftable” due to people having recently kayaked multiple Class VI around the world. (Some consider rafting on a class VI river suicidal, and only extreme luck or skill will allow you through)

Where can I find out info/recommendations about other folks trips?

Many people have shared their trips or recommended various sections. A compilation of these trip can be found on our Paddle Trail Community Forum.

Where can I post info about my trip?

Join our Paddle Trail Community Forum to access information, suggested trips, and stories from the Paddle Trail Community Forum.  You may also report river hazards, such as log jams on our Paddle Trail Map.

Who can I call to volunteer to help with paddle trail maintenance?

Check out our calendar of events for upcoming volunteer opportunities. You can also email volunteer@riverlink.org to be put on the volunteer list serve, and we will notify you when opportunities arise.

How do I contribute to RiverLink and the overnight paddle trail?

You can donate to further RiverLink’s mission here.

Are there plans for more campsites?

Yes, RiverLink and Mountain True are continuing to develop Paddle Trail campsites along the French Broad River. If you are interested in hosting a campsite or want to help construct a campsite, please email waterresources@riverlink.org for more information.

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

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