The French Broad River is the third (3rd) oldest river in the world. The river is even older than the mountains it runs through. Long ago, beyond what our minds can fathom, this land began a journey that would eventually travel around the globe. Along for the ride, a bold river was able to cut away at the rocks, deposited large amounts of sediment along the coast, and avoid being covered by sea water. Over 450 million years ago the river was formed during the creating of the super-continent Pangaea. The Appalachian Mountains are a result of three distinct phases of mountain building, as the North American continent and African continent collided, between 470 – 275 million years ago. Due to this geologic history the river uniquely travels from south to north, through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
The French Broad River is the longest free flowing river in North Carolina, flowing a total of 210 miles, 117 within North Carolina. In Tennessee it joins the Holston to form the Tennessee River, which flows into the Ohio River, the largest tributary by volume to the Mississippi River.
The French Broad River Watershed includes all the land in North Carolina and Tennessee which flows to the French Broad River. The watershed is 2,830 square miles (1.8 million acres), contains a total of 4,136 miles of streams and rivers, and 25 municipalities within 16 counties. In North Carolina this includes Buncombe, Madison, Mitchell, Transylvania, Yancey, and portions of Avery, Henderson, and Mitchell Counties. In Tennessee this includes Cocke, Green, Sevier, Unicoi, and portions of Jefferson, Knox and Washington Counties.
The French Broad River is classified as “Class B” waters; meaning that it is recognized by the State of North Carolina where frequent and organized human body contact, such as swimming, is occurring.
The headwaters of the French Broad begin at Devil’s Courthouse in Pisgah National Forest. The summit can be viewed from a parking overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway and can be reached by a strenuous half-mile trail. The French Broad River begins in Rosman, NC where the North Fork and West Fork of the French Broad come together
The Top 10 Reasons to LOVE the French Broad River
10. She supplies over 1 million people with drinking water.
9. She is an extremist. Starts off in the wettest and flows through the driest counties in North Carolina.
8. What better place to wash away your worries than in the third-oldest river in the world?
7. The river is one of the few places you can play all day and never pay an entrance fee.
6. Her banks are the flattest place around and one of the best to ride a bike or run.
5. Hellbenders are free to see but in Japan they could cost you $3000
4. She is a true philanthropist; receives waste, rejuvenates and continues to serve by nurturing all.
3. You can no longer smell her before you see her.
2. She’s no Trashy Broad.
1. She has the best network in town with over 4000 miles of streams and tributaries.
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