French Broad Section 6

This stretch of river is runnable at all water levels and contains Class II whitewater suitable for instructional trips, playboating, attaining, tubing, or fishing. Numerous pulloffs on Riverside Drive offer ample easy access.

Directions from downtown Asheville: Drive north on Broadway past the five-way intersection, past UNCA on the right, under I-26/US19/23 where Broadway becomes Riverside Drive. Continue on Riverside Drive past Woodfin River Park and Riverside Business Park on the left. Pass the Wastewater Reclamation Facility on the right and continue on Riverside as it departs the river for a couple of miles. As you the road returns to the river, notice a campground on the left that offers overpriced access directly upstream of the Ledges Park. Soon after the campground (5.5 miles past Woodfin River Park), look for a pull off on the left with enough parking for about 4 vehicles. Park here, leaving room for more vehicles to park, secure your valuables out of sight and lock your doors in order to not tempt any would-be thieves. If these spots are taken, there is a parking lot 1/4 mile downstream with 8 spaces that is commonly used by road cyclists. If travelling from the north on I-26, take the New Stock Rd. exit (exit 21) and head right (west). Turn left on Aiken Rd. after .7 miles, then take your first right on Goldview Rd. which dead ends into Riverside Dr. at the Ledges parking lot.

Gauge: French Broad River at Asheville, NC


Description: Section 6 of the French Broad River has a very tarnished history and a murky reputation among boaters due to the Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Woodfin. Flowing downstream of Asheville, where the river is lined with auto salvage yards and various other unsightly industrial riff-raff, this stretch of river has been grossly mistreated for much of its recent history. But the good news is that the French Broad River is one of the oldest rivers in the world, and a hundred years of pollution and dumping is a small hiccup in the lifeline of this great river. Driving by the water treatment facility, one may notice the musty smell of unmentionable ickiness, but rest assured that the water being discharged is without odor. After countless visits to the Ledges Whitewater Park, including vigorous playboating, recreational swimming, and plenty of rolls, I can say with all confidence that the water poses no threat to the health of any users. If any form of pollution were worth bringing attention to, it would most certainly be non-point source pollution due to irresponsible erosion control by mountainside developers.

The section begins at Woodfin River Park and Riverside Business Park on the left (home of Astral Buoyancy, Watershed Drybags, Eagles Nest Outfitters, and Pyranha Kayaks US distribution warehouse and offices). Both of these parks offer good slack-water areas for beginners to work on rolls in warmer months or to work on flatwater skills anytime. Heading downstream from Riverside Business Park you will encounter an un-runnable riverwide ~15 foot dam. Portage the dam on river left and ferry over to the main current on river right. As you float along the concrete embankment you will notice many islands across the river and see a left-hand bend on the right bank where the current builds to form wave trains at levels above 1500 cfs. After a small feeder culvert on the right you will encounter the swiftest section above the Ledges. The main current is easy to follow and no moves other than bracing are required to navigate this speedy little stretch. There is one surgy little wave with a decent eddy that can offer good fast water practice at levels over 2000 cfs. However, the quality of whitewater and accessibility at the Ledges Park far surpasses this stretch. If you plan a float trip for the section above the Ledges, a fishing pole will be a critical piece of equipment because the smallmouth bass in these waters will be able to offer far more excitement than the whitewater. 2-3 miles of Class I water lie between this fast run and the Ledges.

If you park in the roadside spaces just upstream of the Ledges parking lot, walk down the steep trail from the 4-space parking area. Continue upstream on the riverside trail between an overhanging tree and a large flake rock, put in on a sandy beach on the upstream side of the large ledge. This description will assume that the water level is between 900 and 2500 cfs on the Asheville gauge since the river generally flows in this window for at least 3/4 of each year. From this point you can ferry out and attain up to the next ledge upstream, eddy hopping and getting in some warm-up strokes. The main flow takes a left angle around a large geometric rock protruding out of the water in the middle of the river which forms an eddy next to a good warm-up wave at low levels. This wave gets deep enough for cartwheels on the river left shoulder at levels above 1800 cfs. Flatspins and low angle righty ends can be had at most levels. At levels above 3000 cfs or so, this wave becomes one-shot, make sure you take advantage of this one shot because the wave will be deep and retentive enough to allow one to use less-than-perfect form on tricks, but will flush you if you flip. At normal levels, dig to river left after flushing to catch the eddy behind the rock that forms a downstream-facing cave. From this eddy, you can utilize a fairly sharp seam between the swift water and the eddy for stern squirts. This eddy line is one of the few on this stretch that stays deep enough for squirts at even low levels.

Moving downstream with the main current, a v-shaped hole will be apparent at the next concentrated drop. A boily eddy line swirls downstream of this hole with deep current on the right side and a defined eddy on the left. Confident lefty end-throwers will find a challenge here at levels above 1500 cfs by approaching the hole from downstream, making sure to keep pointed directly upstream. Flatspins are not possible at this spot, so make your first pump count and stay vertical to avoid the rock lurking on the surfer-right edge of the hole. The wash out is plenty deep, but the squirrelly eddy line may require some patience while inverted. For paddlers wishing to work on basic skills, this spot offers defined eddies on each side of a wide strip of fast moving water. Hopping from eddy to eddy efficiently in this spot requires good boat control and stroke timing.

Next up is the main drop of the Ledges where the river splits around a large boulder mid-river. One of my favorite moves here is to practice the timing of my boof stroke to enter the eddy on the river left side of the boulder. Try to cut as close to the 90 degree corner of the rock to utilize the most vertical drop possible. Once you are in the eddy, you can ferry/surf across the surgy wave and dig upstream through the slack water, pull an upstream surf at the top of this eddy and peel out into the main current about 25 feet above the boulder. Repeat the boof/eddy/ferry/attain until you are satisfied with your timing. The rest of the drop can be run on river left (which is shallower and requires a right turn after the boulder that forms the boof) or river right (more straightforward). If attainments are your thing, there is a cool elevator move from the large eddy located mid-drop behind the boulder, moving from river-left to right. Just make sure to take some good momentum into the flow and get your bow up.

On the river right side of the main drop is the advanced cartwheel spot called 88 Dodgers. A guardian rock lays directly to the surfer’s right side of the hole and a shallow rock lurks just downstream, so roll quickly.

The infamous Doo-doo Hole lies next in the progression of drops. This feature is playable at all levels with a rather consistent level of retentiveness. The hole is easy to exit on both sides (assuming that you can gain edge control while in a side surf), and always surgy in the pit of the hole. If you decide to work on your side surf, be prepared for your upstream edge to be accosted by the constantly surging flow. The hole is very shallow at most water levels and a properly fitting helmet is absolutely crucial for playing here. Even experienced riders can expect high-speed windowshades while crossing the middle of the hole. Spins can be had on each shoulder of the wave, however they come more naturally on surfer-right. Cartwheels can be squeaked out here by gradually changing the angle of your spin momentum. The key to linking ends is maintaining your position on the foam pile and avoiding falling into the pit where rocks lurk close to the surface. Above 2500 cfs eddy service becomes scarce, but creative surfers can always find a way up using the overhanging trees on the river right bank. The seam above the hole can be good for squirts, but having a prompt combat roll is a good idea here because dropping into the Doohole upside down will result in a few scrapes.

Below the main playhole, there are more straightforward drops with interesting eddies to be caught. If you are pressed for time, but still want to catch a few more on-the-fly surfs at levels over 2000 cfs, continue down to the point where Reems Creek meets the river on the right. From here you can walk or hitchhike the mile or so back to the Ledges, watch out for dump trucks rumbling down Riverside Drive.

If you continue further downstream, the next feature of note is the Alexander Wave. It is located underneath the Fletcher Martin Rd. Bridge where slabs of concrete in the riverbed and a strong current form a series of waves above 1800 cfs. At 2400 cfs the second wave becomes deep enough to cartwheel all the way across. Eddy service at this wave is quite mysterious, as a rock lies directly in the path of entrance to the main current from the eddy in the center of the river (river right of the waves). This rock makes it next to impossible to re-enter the wave. I rarely get more than two surfs per session on this wave because of the frustration and fatigue that inevitably results from trying to find a way around this rock and across the main current. I have heard reports of attaining along the river left bank for re-entry to the wave. If anyone has found a reasonable way to re-enter the Alexander Wave, please post your technique here. Above 3000 cfs, simply catching the center eddy after flushing is a feat in itself. As levels rise, the wave only becomes faster and bouncier. The Alexander Bridge offers a great perch for a shuttle driver/ videographer to catch some footage of this one-shot wave at high levels. Ample parking is available adjacent to Riverside Drive on river right for takeout or park and play purposes. Avoid parking in the drive on river left as landowner tension has built here in the past.

Regional Member Articles