During warm weather, it’s not unusual for thousands of locals and visitors to hit the French Broad River using an assemblage of tubes, kayaks, canoes, and SUPs. It’s a fun, inexpensive way to enjoy one of our greatest natural spaces.
With seven parks providing free access to the river in Arden, Asheville, and Alexander, Buncombe County Recreation Services knows a love for on-the-water recreation can sometimes take a toll. On busy weekends and holidays, it’s not uncommon to see abandoned cardboard packaging from new tubes alongside a trashcan overflowing with disposable water bottles, single-use plastic cups, glass bottles, and cans. Even though we increase sanitation services at these hot spots during peak months, you can help by considering the impacts of what you bring on the river and what you leave behind – which all affect other people, water, and wildlife.
“We’re fortunate to live in a community that has embraced the ‘pack it in, pack it out’ mantra while hiking, picnicking, or enjoying many of the amenities at our larger public parks like Lake Julian and Buncombe County Sports Park,” according to Peyton O’Conner, Director of Buncombe County Recreation Services. “As more visitors use our river parks to access the French Broad, we ask they embrace the same responsibility to help minimize litter, invasive species, bank erosion, and water pollution in these public spaces that belong to all residents.”
How to Help
Most of the waste at our river parks is made up of single-use plastic, cardboard, and aluminum cans. All of these items can be “packed out,” rather than left to possibly find their way into river. If you purchase a new tube or inflatable kayak, keep the packaging in your vehicle for recycling or disposal at home. Same goes for cardboard casing that is left over after emptying beverage cans into your cooler. A reusable water bottle helps save one-time plastic bottles from taking up space in waste baskets, as does “packing out” your empty beverage cans when you exit the river for the day. Glass bottles can be hazardous and much harder to take back after a few hours on the river.
What to Bring
Lots of water, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, UV-blocking sunglasses, and a wide brim hat are essentials. (Read more sun safety tips.) Depending on how long you’ll be on the river, you may want to bring snacks and other beverages. Your choice of watercraft is a personal decision, but a personal floatation device (PFD) or lifejacket should be worn for water based activities. A change of clothes, your ID, and a towel at the end destination are also key items.
What to Expect
The most popular put in is Hominy Creek (220 Hominy Creek Road in Asheville) with recreational users exiting at one of the City of Asheville parks along the way including Carrier, French Broad, or Jean Webb. There are few rapids within this section of the river, but after heavy rainfall, it can be dangerous for beginners to navigate. French Broad Paddle Trail river gauge data is regularly updated on the organization’s website. Private property can look similar to a public park, so it’s a good idea to bring along a friend who is familiar with the different take out spots along whichever section you’re enjoying. Many riverside businesses also encourage river access with rentals and shuttle service.
For more information about Buncombe County’s river parks, visit Buncombe County Recreation Services.
Note: The French Broad River flows from south to north. Glen Bridge, Corcoran Paige, Bent Creek, and Hominy Creek offer relatively few rapids and are generally safe for tubing. Ledges Whitewater, Alexander, and Walnut Island are not suitable for tubing. These areas of the river should only be accessed by experienced paddlers. There are no lifeguards along the river and accessing a natural area comes with its own set of risks.