The French Broad River flows for just over 100 miles in the state of North Carolina. The French Broad is free flowing which means that the water level is determined by the amount of rainfall in the watershed. For all sections, but particularly the whitewater section the character of the river changes considerably depending on the water level.
There are many stretches of river that are fun to float. The section near the headwaters outside the town of Brevard, and the section in Asheville that flows past the Biltmore are 2 popular sections. Another great section is Section 10 from Hot Springs heading toward Tennessee which begins below the bridge in Hot Springs where the river is calmer. This is an easy 4 or 6 mile section to be floated. In this section there is one fun wavy rapid and some big deep pools for swimming or just relaxing.
Whitewater Rafting Closest to Asheville
For those looking for whitewater, the section of river that finishes in Hot Springs, known as Section 9, is the closest whitewater rafting to Asheville and the place to go. Of the whole river, this section has the most whitewater. The rapids range from Class 1 to Class 4 and the scenery is spectacular.
There are several outfitters that offer guided raft trips on the whitewater section and offer guided or rental trips on the calm section below Hot Springs. This is the closest whitewater rafting to Asheville
Whether on a guided raft trip or in their own boat, whitewater enthusiasts begin their trip at a place called Barnard. Barnard was a drover town when the Buncombe Turnpike was active and now is a small community with a county owned park for river access.
First Rapids Beginner and Maze – Then a Jump and Swim at JUMP ROCK
After launching at Barnard, paddlers have some time to warm up. The river makes a couple of bends before coming to Beginners and The Maze, the first couple of significant rapids. After The Maze, most rafting trips take a break to visit Jump Rock. The jump from the rock into the water is just big enough to be scarier than you thought it would be before you climbed up to the jump spot.
Now the Bigger Rapids
After getting your adrenaline going at jump rock you are ready for the bigger rapids that are in the middle of the upper part of Section 9. There are also some good spots to stop for a picnic lunch in that part of the river. After several Class 3 rapids, the river mellows out a bit.
Many rafting trips and paddlers elect to take out at a place called Stackhouse. This is another very small community that was once a booming town. Stackhouse is easily recognized by the large Victorian home that was finished in 1903. Those wanting more river time and/or the chance to paddle a Class 4 rapid keep on going past Stackhouse.
Take Out at Stackhouse – Or Finish with a Class 4 at Frank Bells
Between Stackhouse and Hot Springs, the river flows through Pisgah National Forest. For about a mile and a half, the river is very mellow and very beautiful with just a few smaller rapids. The Laurel River joins up with the French Broad near the top of this section and you have a view of Needle Rock in the distance. It is not uncommon to see a Bald Eagle in this more remote section of river.
After the mellow and relaxing float comes the big finish with the Class 4 Frank Bell’s rapid. It is a big, fun rapid, with a very large calm pool at the bottom. From the bottom of Frank Bell’s it is just under a mile to the take out in Hot Springs.
Back in Hot Springs enjoy lunch or a cold beverage at one of our many eateries and finish the day off with a soak in the hot mineral springs.