French Broad - 6. NC Route 251 to Route 1634


French Broad, North Carolina, US

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6. NC Route 251 to Route 1634 (Woodfin River park to Alexander)

Usual Difficulty I-III (for normal flows)
Length 6.5 Miles

(MN) Throwing ends at the shithole


(MN) Throwing ends at the shithole
Photo of Scott Darby by Mike Nail taken 03/20/05 @ 1800

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
FRENCH BROAD RIVER AT ASHEVILLE, NC
usgs-03451500 500 - 5000 cfs I-III 00h32m 892 cfs (running)
500 to 5K is the runnable range for a typical boater running from Woodfin Park to below the Ledges or to the Alexander bridge.


River Description

Not a frequently run section of river. Pubic access available at Woodfin Park. A short distance downstream the water is backed up by a dam that supplies water to the Metropolitan Sewage District. Portage on the left (short & steep). This is mostly a class 2 run with one class 3 at medium levels (~2,000 cfs). At the upper end of the range the ledges is probably a 3 also. Many advanced to expert boaters will play at Ledges Park at levels much higher than 5,000 cfs. 

Carolina Whitewater, B.Benner

More info is available on Chris Bell's Asheville-Area Canoeing and Kayaking Page.or his newer BoatingBeta.com page.

from Discoduck on boatertalk. March 2003:
Ok, the ledges park is really fun, because it is close to town, but the quality of the playspots there are not up to the level of quarry or the NOC wave. At the upper most section of the ledges there is a small but nice 360 hole that gets really good at levels from around 2500 to 3500 cfs, and at that level, you can even throw some ends in it. furthur down is a cartwheel pourover that is hard to spot, but really fun once you figure it out. it washes out above 1800 cfs or so. It is really good at lower levels of around 700-1300 cfs of flow. The only drawback to this spot is a rock on the right side that is a real boat breaker if you get off line, but it is worth the boat abuse in my opinion. I have seen a few people get 30-40 ends in this spot. A dozen or so is the best I can do!

Below this is the "main" drop of the ledges, some fun circular attainments can be done in this rapid (go upstream above a rock using a small hole/wave to slingshot you, come back around across the current and through at slot, repeat again and again). there is also a cartwheel pourover here that is "walled in" by rocks on both sides that is good at levels of 2000 or so. definitely can be exciting if you decide to give it a try.

Below this is the infamous "shit hole". This spot is always playable at about any level except above 7000 cfs or so where it becomes a one shot wave. This hole is generally good for some blasts and blast wheels, corner spins. I have seen some people cartwheel in it and blunt at higher flows, but it is pretty difficult, and you need a short boat for sure.

There is also a wave furthur downstream called the alexander bridge wave that I have never been to that is supposed to be good at 2500 cfs (I think). Anyone have any info on this?

Anyway, hope this was helpful. All in all, it is a good workout and moderately fun. We are supposed to be getting some other man made playspots closer to town in the future, but I am out of the loop on the progress towards this. I generally go down there once a week or so as the weather warms up.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-04 17:49:13

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 3 2012 (1907 days ago)
Ran in kayaks yesterday the 2nd of june i guess . it was like 1490 cfs somewhere around there we
scraped are way along below the dam there were a few good lines through out the trip where u had
plenty of water over all fun run think i would wait for 2000 cfs or higher before i run it agein
the best take out to get around the dam is right at the 400ft warning sighn at river left
July 23 2011 (2223 days ago)
caverdan (153326)
Beta for this section appears quite thin. I have a few observations to add. Put in at Woodfin River
Park off 251 and paddle down the flatwater to the dam about 1/2 a mile or so. The portage around
Craggy Dam is quite easy. You can take out about 50 feet from the dam on the left, or if water
levels are higher, you can take out a bit further upstream near the warning sign for the dam. It
says 400 feet, but it feels like considerably less, maybe about 100-150 feet. To put back in you
can either put back on immediately below the dam, or carry another 150 feet or so downstream along
the railroad embankment to an easy slide down the railroad ballast (we lowered with a throw rope)
to an easier re-entry. Below the dam, the water level is more complex than most reports would lead
you to believe. The Craggy Dam impoundment bypasses about 3200 feet of river on the river right
side , and was generating when we paddled it. This meant the 3200 foot bypassed section was running
pretty dry. Documents from NCDENR show that the dam releases 460cfs July through January and 860cfs
the remainder of the year, though no release times or schedule were found. When the dam isn't
generating, the diverted flow spills over the dam making the 3200 foot "dries" more runnable. We
were still able to paddle it, but had to pick our lines carefully. Once we intersected the release
channel on river right below the powerhouse, flow improved greatly, and there is a rocky Class III
chute here on far river right that can be run or bypassed by picking your way through the rocks to
the left of the rapid, though you'll scrape a bit unless levels are higher than 1500cfs on the
Asheville guage. Below this rapid things calm down considerably to class I-II for a good stretch of
relatively remote but rocky river, as River Road (251) leaves the river for a few miles here. Once
you rejoin the road on river right, you'll pass a campground which signals the beginning of the
Ledges section. These areas are class II, but are more like class III above 1000cfs, due to the
turns required to negotiate the rapids. Immediately below Ledges park, there are low drops on river
left and right. The right side is fun, but drops into a scrapey rock garden with no easy line out
at lower levels. The next mile or so of river has good gradient but is constant rock garden. About
2 miles below Ledges Park is the Alexander Bridge rapid. Probably a high class II at low to
moderate levels. Run left between the bank and left most pylon at lower levels. There is a wave
here which I've seen surfed and which has been reported on before. Note that though it is advised
in most guidebooks and online sources to take out at or below this bridge, there really isn't a
good place to do so, or parking available here, unless you take out above the bridge, and the bank
here is pretty steep, and access is questionable. Instead, you can run down the river a bit further
to a riverside park adjacent to the Alexander Mountain Bike park, which has abundant parking and
river access, or run even further down to the Walnut Island Park which also has good access. It's 5
miles from Ledges Park to Walnut Island Park. Between Alexander Mountain Bike Park and Walnut
Island Park, there's also a ledge that can be run a variety of ways depending on the water level,
but other than this the run is mostly Class I-II unless levels are high. We have run Ledges to
Walnut from 750cfs to 2100cfs. 2100 is more fun. We have run Woodfin Park to Ledges Park at
~850cfs, though with additional water from the dam release below the "dries" it was more like
~1300cfs. This would have been more fun with more water (low runnable). Note also that the width of
the river makes recovering from swims difficult.
February 21 2004 (4932 days ago)
Kevin YountDetails
There is an access issue at the Alexander Bridge. While running from the Ledges to the Bridge
yesterday, I parked my car at the pulloff on 251 just beyond the bridge. Upon taking out, I was
informed by someone in a truck that this was his property and that it was posted, but I didn't see
any signs and when I asked him where his signs were, he said that people keep taking them down.
That seemed kind of shady to me, but I didn't protest and went on my way. For now, use river left
as an takeout where the railroad tracks run, but I don't see alot of parking on that side.
June 3 2003 (5195 days ago)
Doug ScarboroughDetails
I did visit the Alexander Bridge wave at about 3100 cfs. It is about 60 feet wide and has a foam
pile about shoulder to head high at that level. However, getting back into the eddy on river right
seems a little more difficult at this level as well.


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