Transylvania County is home to three main recreational waterways: the French Broad River, the Davidson River and the Little River. The French Broad and its tributaries, including the Davidson River, offer a variety of paddling opportunities, including whitewater kayaking and family-friendly canoeing.
The French Broad starts on the county’s western side and meanders throughout the river valley flowing into the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and ultimately ending up in the Gulf of Mexico. Many people are surprised to learn that the French Broad is the third oldest river in the world. In Transylvania County, flat-water access areas along the French Broad include Champion Park, Island Ford, Hap Simpson Park, Wilson Road and Penrose.
Recommendations for half-day floats include Hap Simpson to Wilson Road and Wilson Road to Penrose. Full-day river trips include Champion Park to Island Ford, Island Ford to Hap Simpson, and Hap Simpson to Penrose.
Beginners are advised to start on the upper French Broad, which is best accessed from Champion Park in Rosman. From the park, the river drops just 54 feet in the next 10 miles on its way to the Island Ford public boat access, making this stretch ideal for a child’s first canoe trip. Hap Simpson Park in Brevard, located roughly 20 miles downstream of Rosman, offers a convenient take-out for those seeking more solitude or for those who want to float longer. The park provides easy access to the river. On average, the trip from Champion Park to Hap Simpson takes about seven hours. Once under the U.S. 276 bridge, it is just a few more miles downstream to the Wilson Road access point.
Paddling from Island Ford to Hap Simpson is a popular float with fishermen, who tempt muskie and smallmouth bass from the undercut banks and deep, circulating pools that characterize this stretch of the French Broad. The river maintains this languid pace as it meanders through nursery stock and cow pastures to the Henderson County line at Blantyre.
The Davidson River begins in the northwest corner of Transylvania County and flows past the Bobby N. Setzer State Fish Hatchery, paralleling U.S. 276 through Pisgah National Forest. For those looking to get their adrenaline pumping, a class II whitewater experience and an A-plus river experience may be found on the upper Davison River. Whitewater creek boating can be found on the North and West Fork of the French Broad River.
These Class III-V creeks will have you boating down steep slides and paddling over steeper waterfalls. The Little River also provides paddling opportunities of its own. For those looking for a lake paddle, Cascade Lake is found on the Little River, between Hooker Falls and the dam.
Although it requires a 1.5-to-2 mile long portage one way, the 100-acre Lake Julia is considered a great lake paddle. Lake Julia can be accessed via Fawn Lake or the High Falls parking area in DuPont State Recreational Forest.
The following businesses are available to help with a waterway experience:
•Bear Tracks Travel Center, located at 10932 Rosman Highway on the way toward Lake Toxaway and Sapphire, offers tubing adventures. For more information, call (828) 862-8992 or go to www.beartrackstravelcenter.com.
•Headwaters Outfitters (see related story in this publication), located at the junction of U.S. 64 West and N.C. 215 on the French Broad, offers self-guided canoe and kayak trips, plus tubing. The outfitter provides boats, tubes, life jackets, safety information, shuttles to and from the river, and changing rooms. For more information, visit www.headwatersoutfitters.com or call (828) 877-3106.
•Lake Toxaway Marine offers sales, service, storage and rentals. For more information, call (828) 884-6919 or go to www.laketoxawaymarine.com. •Oxbow River Snorkeling offers full-day snorkeling tours. For more information, call (270) 339-0519 or go to www.oxbowriversnorkeling.com.
•Pura Vida Adventures, headquartered on the Hendersonville Highway in Pisgah Forest, offers canoe trips, kayak trips and instructions. For more information, call 1 (772) 579-0005 or go to www.pvadventures.com.
•White Squirrel Paddle Boards offers a fun and unique way to explore the county’s waterways. For more information, call (828) 553-7329 or go to www.whitesquirrel paddleboards.com. For more information about all local activities, go to www.transylvaniaexplorer.com.
FRENCH BROAD RIVER PADDLE TRAIL
For those looking to do overnight camping on the French Broad River, camping sites are available through the French Broad River Paddle Trail. The six campsites were created and are operated by MountainTrue, are located along 140 miles of the river and stretch from the headwaters in Rosman in Transylvania County to Douglas Lake in Tennessee.
The campsites are located roughly every 12 to 15 miles, with sites in Transylvania County just upstream of Hap Simpson Park; Riverbend Campsite between Hap Simpson and Wilson Road; and at Little River Campsite, located at the mouth of the Little River.
The campsites are managed by a reservation system. For more information on fees and reservations, go to www.frenchbroadpaddle.com.
Each year, there are reports of injuries or fatalities at waterfalls or waterways in Transylvania County. The following are some key safety tips:
•Know the potential hazards of waterfalls.
•Stay on developed trails and don’t stray from observation decks and platforms
•Stay back from the edge — the top of the falls is the most dangerous.
•Watch your footing — dry rocks can be just as slippery as wet ones, especially if they are covered in algae.
•Do not climb on rocks near waterfalls.
•Wear stable shoes.
•Don’t jump or dive off waterfalls — submerged rocks, trees or debris could be immediately below the surface of the water.
•Don’t swim in waterfall pools.
•Watch children carefully.
•Stay out of restricted areas.
•Always carry a map of the area. •Use extreme caution when walking along riverbanks
•If you find yourself accidentally swimming in fast-moving water, do not try to stand up. Most drowning incidents result from getting a leg or ankle caught in an underwater rock ledge or between boulders. The force of the water will push you over and hold you under.