Flowing in the shadow of much gnarlier runs, the French Broad is a fine piece of whitewater often overlooked. One section that is infrequently run is Section 6, flowing from our shop in Woodfin to the Ledges Park, approximately 6 miles downstream. The flow was 8800 CFS, the weather sunny, and the water brown. We put in right at the Metropolitan Sewer District…downstream of Asheville. Good thing that Asheville’s shit don’t stink, cause we were about to swim in it. I wasn’t worried, I had on Immersion Research’s new ‘SuperModel’ drysuit, and planned to keep my mouth shut tight. Right after we put on, we had to portage around this, the Brown Curtain.
We were looking for these:
Swimming in whitewater is fun. Even when it’s downstream of the sewer plant. There were over a dozen great waves in this section (only run at high levels…at normal levels it’s no fun). The Play 35 surfs like a dream, and loves to catch wave holes, waves, eddy lines, whatever. As it’s name implies…it’s for playing.
One of my favorite waves is the Campground wave, just above Ledges Whitewater Park.
What is the point of any of this playing in the river? There is no point. Unless the point is experiencing the freedom that flying on water has to offer ala the Bellyak. Then it’s awesome. Sure. I’m biased. The bellyak is my puppy. I love it no matter what. But so far, I’ve been on this section with kayakers, C1 paddlers, and SUP boarders. And I know, subjectively, I had way more fun than them. If that’s the point, then I won. But the real awesomeness is finding a piece of river that I drive by every day, but never paddle, and finding little gems of waves hidden amongst the high water. That is one of my favorite reasons to paddle…for the sense of discovery. Sure, it’s not Class V, but the experience of “high performance” whitewater swimming on Class III is all the Class V I need after work.
Here’s a shot of the top wave at ledges park, right at the takeout:
For an after work run, at the right water levels (above 6500 CFS) this section is hard to beat.