Area Info / The French Broad River

The French Broad River

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French Broad River

In modern times, the French Broad River is fondly known as a premiere recreation spot with thriving wildlife and unforgettable scenery. The free-flowing river has delighted outdoorsmen for generations, providing the perfect location for rafting, canoing, kayaking, fishing and simply enjoying the music of the many songbirds that populate the surrounding forests of flowering dogwoods, poplars, and mossy sycamores.

Since the intensity of the river varies depending on the season, both experienced and beginning water-sportsmen have come to love the river. It plays host to many beach-side resorts and rafting agencies that provide raft and equipment rentals, as well as guides who are happy to lead you on your very own rafting adventure.

Of course, the history of the French Broad extends back in time long before whitewater rafting enthusiasts breached its shores; it extends back before the dawn of man, before even the formation of the ancient Appalachian Mountains that it now winds gracefully through. It has long been understood that the Carolina region is geologically quite old, but the French Broad River bears the distinction of being the third oldest river in the world, trailing closely behind the Nile and the ironically named New River -- which also flows through North Carolina. Today, the French Broad River serves as a major tributary of the famous Tennessee river, weaving its way around and through 210 miles of Western North Carolina Mountains, taking up the Pigeon, Swannanoa, Nolichucky, and other tributary rivers along the way.

The Earliest known settlers of the French Broad Region are thought to be the Connestee Indians, whose mounds have been found to date back as far as 500-200 A.D. Evidence of Cherokee Indian habitation can be traced back to at least 1000 A.D. The Cherokee gave the river its oldest known name, Agiqua. It would be quite a while before emigrating Europeans, no doubt impressed by the river's breadth, would name it the French Broad.

Since the first Europeans settled the region in the late 18th Century, the banks of the French Broad have played host to cotton mills, riverside parks, even the doomed steam boat, The Mountain Lily, but as city and industry grew around it so too did pollution. Fortunately this trend did not go unnoticed. In 1955, Wilma Dykman published her seminal work "The French Broad". Calling the river "Too thick to drink and too thin to plow," Dykeman rose concerns about the state of the river, which were soon confirmed by the French Broad Pollution Survey of 1957. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, The French Broad was on its way to returning to the clean refuge of nature loved by so many today.