Here are answers to frequently-asked questions that we commonly receive. Feel free to contact us to clarify anything described here, or with any other wonderings or concerns you might have.
When is the best time of year to be on the Paddle Trail?
Summer is definitely the busiest, given the warm temperatures, long days, and reliable flows, however our personal favorite time of year is early fall - September and October. It's typically a bit less humid and has crisp cool nights perfect for camping.
What should I bring when paddling and camping along the Paddle Trail?
Check out our list of suggestions on the Recommended Gear page.
Where can I rent a canoe, kayak, SUP, raft, etc.?
Check out our list of outfitters who rent boats on the Outfitters & Businesses page.
I don’t have a lot of paddling experience. What's a good beginner section to float and camp along?
The French Broad near Brevard offers several short sections of scenic flatwater, with several campsites available to make for beginner-friendly mini-adventures. The areas between Bent Creek and Hominy Creek Park in Asheville are slightly more challenging, but also make for a good beginner’s float. Check out our two suggested one-night trips on the Suggested Trips page for more details.
Can I fish, swim, or drink the water in the French Broad River?
Fishing is excellent on the French Broad but remember to get your North Carolina and/or Tennessee fishing license to avoid a citation from the wildlife resources enforcement officers. The section of river between Long Shoals Road and Craggy Dam is listed as impaired for bacteria and therefore is unsafe for swimming. Swimming in other areas should be done at your own risk. Avoid drinking river water, as it can contain pathogens and pollutants from point and non-point source sources. Water can be filtered from the river, but it is a much better idea to bring extra water. If the river is muddy, it can make filtering water very difficult. We often find that levels of bacteria and other pollutants are elevated after heavy rain events, so we recommend avoiding fishing, swimming, or drinking the water after large amounts of rainfall.
Which breweries and taprooms can be walked to from, or are near, the river?
The following breweries are within walking distance or a quick drive from public access points along the French Broad: Forks of the River Taproom (Rosman), Oskar Blues Brewery (Brevard), Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Mills River), Wedge Brewing Co. - Foundy St. (Asheville), plēb urban winery (Asheville), Hi-Wire Brewing (Asheville), Wedge Brewing Co. - Wedge Studios (Asheville), New Belgium Brewing (RAD - Asheville). The Getaway River Bar (Asheville), Ginger's Revenge (Asheville), Zillicoah Beer Co. (Woodfin), Outsider Brewing Company (Woodfin), Riverside Rhapsody Beer Company (Woodfin), Mad Co. Brew House (Marshall), Big Pillow Brewing (Hot Springs), and Bobarosa Saloon (Del Rio).
New breweries and taprooms are opening fairly often. Let us know if we missed any!
What wildlife might I see while paddling or camping?
The French Broad is home to an incredible variety of wildlife above and below the water's surface.
Land-dwelling mammals include the black bear, white-tailed deer, bobcat, and white squirrel, along with the semiaquatic muskrat, nutria, beaver, and river otter. For birds, you might see the bald eagle, great blue and green herons, belted kingfisher, cormorant, wood and black ducks, mallard, osprey, red-tailed hawk, cardinal, and a variety of migratory species. In terms of reptiles and amphibians, keep an eye out for snakes (only the copperhead and timber rattlesnake are venomous), salamanders (including hellbenders in the mountain tributaries), frogs, toads, and several species of turtle. Below the surface, or on the end of your fishing rod, you might find brown and rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, bluegill, freshwater drum, silver redhorse, crappie, bluegill, walleye, and muskellunge.
If you are especially interested in wildlife viewing or fishing, check in with one of the many outfitters listed on the Outfitters & Retailers page to book an interpretive float or find an angling guide.
What animals and plants should I be cautious of?
Two varieties of venomous snakes are found along the French Broad River: the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. Copperheads like to be near water, and like areas with lots of vines and debris, as their camouflage matches dead leaves. Their venom is not usually fatal, but a bite can have very serious consequences. Timber rattlesnakes can be found in a wide variety of habitats including deciduous forests and rocky outcrops. Rattlesnake venom can be fatal, so avoid getting bitten by this type of snake. Keep in mind, both the copperhead and timber rattler do not usually bite unless provoked or threatened.
Bears are found throughout Western North Carolina, so be aware, but it is unlikely that you will see one while camping along the French Broad. That said, raccoons, mice and certain birds have been known to snack on campers' meals, so secure all food when unattended and overnight.
Poison ivy is widespread in the French Broad River watershed, and we recommend you familiarize yourself with how it looks so that you can identify it and avoid touching it. Many of the campsites are known to have poison ivy within the vegetation along the perimeter of the camping area, but it can easily be avoided by being aware and cautious.
Are there rapids and whitewater along the French Broad Paddle Trail?
Section 9 of the French Broad (between Barnard Park and Hot Springs in Madison County) is well-known its whitewater, consisting of class II-IV rapids, and sees plenty of commercial rafting and private boating. This beautiful section offers thrills, but also serious hazards, and should not be attempted by beginner canoeists, kayakers, or rafters. Anyone floating this section should make sure to be familiar with the rapids and associated routes and launch under safe conditions in terms of gear, weather, and water levels. Most rapids along this section can generally be "read-and-run," however specific lines exist at "Kayaker's Ledge" and "Frank Bells."
Otherwise, minor class II rapids exist between Ledges River Park and the town of Marshall, Redmon Dam and Barnard Park, Murray Branch Picnic Area and Wolf Creek Bridge, and Del Rio and Bridgeport.
Scout rapids that you cannot see the bottom of and portage rapids that you're not comfortable with. More information can be found on our print map and American Whitewater's website, which is linked-to on our Additional Resources page.
Are there any portages or obstructions to be aware of?
There are run-of-river dams necessitating portage along the French Broad between Rosman and Newport. The first is Craggy Dam in Woodfin, located between Woodfin Riverside Park and Ledges River Park. It is 13 feet tall and owned by the Metropolitan Sewerage District. The second is Capitola Dam in Marshall, located in downtown Marshall. It is 9 feet tall and owned by the French Broad Electric Membership Corporation. The third is Redmon Dam, shortly downstream of Capitola Dam and downtown Marshall. It is 30 feet tall and owned by Duke Energy. An established but illegal portage exists around the river-left side of Craggy Dam. No legal portage currently exists for Capitola or Redmon. If you are planning to paddle through Marshall and onwards to Section 8, we suggest taking out in Rollins and arranging a portage down to Redmon Dam River Access to portage both dams together.
The river also occasionally collects river-wide woody debris and intersects with construction projects that might be hazardous for paddlers. Typically only found in Transylvania and southern Henderson County due to the river's narrow width, many entities work together to identify, announce, and create passage through blockages as soon as possible.
Construction projects rarely block the entire river, but can affect the width of the channel, speed of the water, and access to the bank within the project area. Examples include bridge creation and replacement, road widening, riparian buffer enhancement, and floodplain restoration, etc.
See locations of dams, known areas of river-wide woody debris areas, and current construction projects on the Web Map & Obstructions page.
Where should I park my car overnight when camping along the Paddle Trail?
Parking is available at most public river access points, but long-term/overnight parking is not recommended if it can be avoided due to the occasional break-in and theft. We recommend that you work with an outfitter to establish a shuttle. They will often allow you to leave your car at their shop or another secure location overnight. If you decide to leave your car at a public river access point, make sure to remove or secure all valuables.
How far apart are the campsites? Are they close enough together to float the entire Paddle Trail in one trip?
Mileage between campsites vary, however the distances are generally short enough to paddle several days in a row, especially in Transylvania, Henderson, and southern Buncombe County. Though only a few campsites currently exist between Asheville and Marshall, a multi-day paddle in this region can still occur. A through-float of the entire Paddle Trail is possible and fairly common; it takes a bit more planning and commitment in terms of longer days on the water, portaging dams, and navigating whitewater.
For more information, check out the Suggested Trips page, and the locations of campsites (MountainTrue's and others) in relation to each other via the mile markers on our maps and Riverside Campsites page. Feel free to contact us with trip-specific questions.
Can I drive to the campsites?
MountainTrue's campsites are only accessible from the river and cannot be driven to. The one exception to this is the Barnard-Big Pine campsite which can be driven or biked to. Please contact MountainTrue staff before your trip if you would like to drive to the Barnard-Big Pine campsite.
All of the privately-managed campsites listed as "Other" can be driven to. Of the listed "Dispersed" campsites, only Weaver Bend and French Broad Fields can be driven to.
Are toilets available at the campsites?
MountainTrue's campsites have elevated composting toilets stocked with toilet paper and wood shavings. The toilets at Evan's Island and Barnard-Big Pine are self-contained, while the others are emptied periodically into an off-site rotational composter. Please follow the posted instructions to ensure these systems work correctly. Please do not place any trash or personal hygiene products into the toilets as it disrupts the composting process and is very difficult to remove.
All of the privately-managed campsites listed as "Other" have some sort of toilet system, however on-site situations vary. Some have port-a-johns, some have flush toilets, etc.
None of the "Dispersed" campsites have toilets. Please practice Leave No Trace at these campsites by burying your solid waste or packing it out in "WAG Bags," groovers, or another system.
What happens if I need to cancel or change a reservation?
Bookings for MountainTrue campsites are fully refundable when canceled 21 days or more before your arrival date. If cancellations need to occur closer to your arrival date, your booking can be moved to another available date at no cost. Changes to a reservation's date can occur at any time. Refunds are not given within 21 days of your scheduled arrival.
Other campsites have their own cancellation and date change policies, which are posted on their websites or can be requested from their hosts.