French Broad River is the third oldest river in the world—trailing closely
behind the Nile in Egypt and the New in northwest North Carolina, western
Virginia and West Virginia. The river is
actually older that mountains through which it flows.
French Broad River officially begins north of Rosman where the North and West
forks come together. Soon they are joined by the Middle and East forks. Tributaries
in Transylvania County include Cathey’s Creek, Carson Creek, Hogsed Creek, King
Creek, Williamson Creek, Davidson River and Little River.
the river originates only about 70 miles from the North Carolina – Tennessee
state line it flows in a semicircle for 213 miles before it joins the Holston
River to create the Tennessee River near Knoxville. Eventually the waters from Balsam Grove are
carried into the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers before emptying into the Gulf of
the Cherokee travelled through what is today Transylvania County from their
mountain settlements to South Carolina they walked along the banks of French
Broad River through Transylvania County. The Cherokee called the river “Agiqua” or Long
Man, and its many tributaries the “Chattering Children.” From Asheville on downstream it was known as Tahkeyostee,
meaning “where they race” for the many fast moving rapids.
French Broad River photo by R. Henry
name French Broad originates with the early white explorers, trappers and
traders in the region. Apparently there
were two “Broad” rivers in western North Carolina. The other Broad River begins in what is today
Buncombe County and flows through Rutherford, Polk and Cleveland counties. That “Broad” river flowed into an area
controlled by the English while our “Broad” river flowed into French controlled
territory. Therefore, we had the
“English” Broad (now known as just the Broad) and the French Broad.
On June 23, 1874 the US Congress authorized the Corps of
Army Engineers to survey the French Broad River from Brevard to the Buncombe
County line. They
built jetties in hopes of creating a navigable river channel. A set of the 1878 Corp of Engineers maps is
available to view at the library.
The Mountain Lily, owned by the French Broad Steamboat
Line, travelled between King’s Bridge in Henderson County and Wilson’s Bridge
in Transylvania County in the early 1880s. The Mountain Lily’s run ended when a
heavy rain storm torn her away from her moorings and whisked her down-river to
pile up on a sand bar near King’s Bridge.
As mentioned in a previous article in the 1930s and again in the 1960s the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) proposed “massive impoundments on the Upper French Broad and its tributaries”. It was only through the efforts of a small but determine group, the Upper French Broad Defense Association, from Transylvania County that this did not happen.
Today the French Broad River in Transylvania County is popular among recreational users for swimming, tubing, canoeing and kayaking. There are public access points at Champion Park in Rosman, off Island Ford Rd., at Hap Simpson Park outside of Brevard, on Wilson Rd. in Pisgah Forest, off Crab Creek Rd. in Penrose and off Grove Bridge Rd. at Blantyre. There are also a couple of paddle-in campsites located along the river.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or 828-884-3151 X242.