French Broad, North Fork - Route 1326 Bridge to US Route 64 Bridge

French Broad, North Fork, North Carolina, US


Route 1326 Bridge to US Route 64 Bridge (Along Highway 215)

Usual Difficulty III-IV+(V) (for normal flows)
Length 7.2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 55 fpm
Max Gradient 145 fpm

Boxcar circa 1979

Boxcar circa 1979
Photo of Brian Jacobson by Steve Williams @ 6"

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03439000 350 - 1000 cfs III-IV+(V) 00h21m 176 cfs (too low)

River Description

Gauge Description:
There is a gauge painted on the US 64 bridge piling. 6 inchs below 0 is about as low as you want to go. The Rosman USGS gauge is the combined flows of the North Fork and the West Fork. Depending on which stream is putting the most flow in, 350 cfs is roughly equal to about 0 in the US 64 gauge.

The North Fork is a classic North Carolina intermediate/advanced creek. At moderate flows below 6 inches the majority of the run is class 4, with a big class 5 in Boxcar Falls. From Boxcar to about a mile below Submarine the rapids are continuous with lots of class 3 boat scoutable boogie water between the bigger drops. The run is probably a notch easier than the Watauga and a lot easier than the Green Narrows. With the right water levels and some creative shuttle work you can run the nearby West Fork of the French Broad on the same day.

Local Expert Harrison Metzger says:
I've probably seen you on the N.Fork since I've run it probably 75 times over the past 11 years. I can help with the rapid names. Also I think the size and difficulty of a few of the rapids may not be quite right. The first slide is known as Sandpaper. I don't think it is 20 feet tall. I would say more like 12 feet. Most local boaters call the left side of Boxcar "Blind Date." It is considerably meaner than the right. The first set of rapids below Boxcar is called Island Rapid. There is a huge log that creates the boof on the right. It can be avoided by threading through the boulders at the top of the island and running a set of drops on that side.

The next rapid downstream needs a name. This is the double drop with the slide into the big diagonal hole. Benner's old book referred to the rapid after this as Razorback, but I think that would be a good name for the big slide. I would rate this a III+ to low IV, not IV+ It is pretty easy if you catch the eddy on the right between drops and hit the hole square.

The next rapid downstream was called Razorback in Benner's old book and he rated it a Class VI for some unknown reason. This one is called Water Cannon and I would also rate it Class III-IV. I don't think it is 12 feet tall...I would say about 6 to 8 feet total.

The Clog, yes it is definitely class IV+ with some class V consequences. The worst is the sucking sieve that you have to cross above when moving left after the first 5-foot drop. This can be avoided by running through a tight chute top left, which puts you right into the large eddy partway down. This left hand eddy is a good place to set ropes and scout the bottom half of the rapid. The drop just below here tends to shoot paddlers to the right where there are numerous pinning possibilities at lower water. The hole at the bottom is called the Black Widow and it becomes a keeper at higher levels.

There is a significant rapid missing from the AW description, the next one below the Clog. It is called Vortex, a set of three drops. The first one, about five feet, is run on the left into a left eddy. The second, a shallow scrape of about four feet, feeds the main drop but you can catch another left eddy. The main drop is a series of holes funneling down into a 5-foot slot at the bottom (the vortex) with good eddies on both sides.

Below here is about a quarter mile of fun Class III boogie water to Submarine. There is currently a couple of large trees downstream just below Submarine blocking most of the flow. I hope to go in there soon and cut them out. Submarine is about 9 feet high. The best way to run it is over the slight roostertail at the top with a slight right angle and a strong final stroke to avoid the hole against the rock wall bottom left, which I call the "Closet of Doom." People who go in there tend to get worked and loose their paddles.

The only other comment I have is on water levels. I painted the gauge correlating it to the old Benner gauge which was on the old U.S. 64 bridge that DOT removed a few years ago. Like the Benner gauges it is intended to be read from the bottom of the numbers. So the bottom of 0 is zero, the minimum for a fun run. This equals about 350 or 3 feet on the Rosman gauge. It can be run several inches below 0 but it is not much fun and hard on equipment. I like to have at least 4 or 5 inches to run Boxcar because it gets so rocky at lower levels. Hope this helps.

Also see Chris Bell's Asheville-Area Canoeing and Kayaking Page.

Shuttle info:

Take out: You can take-out at the outfitters store at the intersection of Hwy 64 and Hwy 215, but most people just stop in for a quick gauge check.
The standard takeout is a wide pull-off on the side of the road near alligator rock. Look for alligator rock to be dangling over the road as you drive upstream. If the river gets out of sight of the road you have gone too far.

Put-In: The easy put-in is at the SR 1326 bridge. There is a large gravel area for parking. There is also a short put-in that elminates the flat water at the top of the run, and one large slide. Using the Alligator rock take-out knocks about a mile and half off of the run, bringing it down to 5.5 miles. Using the short put-in takes off another mile, getting the run down to 4.5 miles. The locals use that combo and
run multiple laps down the river.

Photo of unknown kayaker in Boxcar Rapid , courtesy of Julie Keller ( See Carolina Whitewater, B.Benner.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-10-26 01:13:01

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Top put-inPutin
1.0Sandpaper aka First SlideIII+Photo
1.7Short Put-InAccess
2.0Boxcar Falls5.1Waterfall Photo
2.1Island RapidIIIPhoto
2.3Typewritter, aka. DiagraslideIII+
2.4Razorback aka Water CannonIV
3.2SubmarineIV+Waterfall Photo
3.3Short (hellish) takeoutAccess
3.6play wavePlayspot
4.1Crack pipeII+
5.7Alligator Rock takeout

Rapid Descriptions

Top put-in
Located at Macedonia Church Road, the first paved road on your left as you exit the top of the gorge on N.C. 215. Putting in here involves about a mile of flat water and nice scenery. Not advised if the level is below 3"

Sandpaper aka First Slide (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

First Slide on the NF of the French Broad

First Slide on the NF of the French Broad
Photo of Brad Roberts by Will Reeves taken 04/15/02 @ Low

A big slide, about 12 feet tall. Scout on the left. There are multiple routes possible. Named because it is really shallow even with a lot of water.

Short Put-In
Using this put-in takes out a little over a mile and a half on the run. You miss some flatwater, some class 2 stuff, and the big slide. Look for a pull-off on the left of N.C. 215 about a quarter mile past where the road makes a sharp turn to the right away from the gorge. The large pull-off, usually marked by a big puddle, is the 1/2 mile trail down to just below Submarine Falls.

Boxcar Falls (Class 5.1, Mile 2.0)

Box Car

Box Car
Photo by Dave Woten @ 6"

A big nasty waterfall with two possible routes. The standard line is to enter just right of center and drop down into the sluice paddling to the right to boof off the right edge of the bottom drop. If you miss the boof expect to go deep. There is also a left hand line known as "Blind Date". The left hand line is more sketchy, as you must punch a hole and drive hard to the left to avoid dropping into the vortex where the two drops converge. Boats running Blind Date have gotten stuck in the cave under the waterfall; one boater had his eardrum burst when he was driven to the bottom of the river. The portage is on the old railroad bed on river right. There is a seal launch off the sloping rock, which is also a good place to set throw ropes and scout.

Island Rapid (Class III, Mile 2.1)

North Fork of the French Broad

North Fork of the French Broad
Photo of Will Reeves by Brad Roberts taken 04/15/02 @ Low

After the pool below Boxcar the flow splits around a large island. The right side is a series of ledges leading down to an eddy on the right above the bottom drop. This drop formerly harbored a huge log that had been jammed across the river for years. However a massive flow of water from Hurricane Frances on 9/7-04 dislodged this log and it is now broached across the river below Submarine Falls. You can run the right side bottom drop either next to the island on the far left or a boof in the middle. Or you can still cut left through the slots at the top of the island and run the shallow slide on that side.

Typewritter, aka. Diagraslide (Class III+, Mile 2.3)
This 6 foot tall slide runs diagonally to the main current. There is an undercut on the bottom left. Above 3 inches on the gauge the hole at the bottom is stiff. By boofing right into the eddy behind the large rock on the right, you can turn and square up to hit the hole at the bottom. It will surf you out to an eddy on the right.

Razorback aka Water Cannon (Class IV, Mile 2.4)
A big slide that is bisceted by a long fin of a rock. Not a place to be upside down. Watch out for a couple of diagonal holes on the way down and a very strong eddy line at the bottom. Awesome cliff on the left resembles the left wall below boxcar.

Clog (Class IV+, Mile 2.6)
The longest rapid on the river and one of the more hazardous, the Clog is a long boulder garden that leads to a riverwide hole at the bottom. It is named for a sucking sieve left of center below the first drop. You can run the first 5-foot drop in the center of the river, but that involves a ferry into the eddies on the left in front of the Clog. Our you can bang through a shallow slot top left that puts you on line for the eddies. These are a good place to scout the bottom drops. They can be run on the right or the left, but beware of pinning rocks in the center and right lines, and of a shark-fin rock sticking up in the middle just above the bottom river-wide hole, the Black Widow. It is best to hit this beast on the far right or far left.

Vortex (Class IV, Mile 3.0)
A set of three drops. The first one, about five feet, is run on the left into a left eddy. The second, a shallow scrape of about four feet, feeds the main drop but you can catch another left eddy. The main drop is a series of holes funneling down into a 5-foot slot at the bottom (the vortex) with good eddies on both sides. Fun class III boogie water continues immediately downstream.

Submarine (Class IV+, Mile 3.2)


Photo of Brad Roberts by Will Reeves taken 04/15/02 @ Low

This 8-foot waterfalls traumatizes many boaters who get slammed into the hole and undercut cliff on the left. The best line is right of center with a slight right angle and a strong stroke at the lip, aiming for a rooster tail through the bottom hole. If you go too far right you will scrape off a shelf of rock and get slammed into the Closet of Doom on the left. Get a good deep breath before you slide down. Portage on the left.

Short (hellish) takeout
A few couple of smaller rapids below Submarine a picnic table on the left marks the steep trail up to N.C. 215. The carry is Class V but when you get to the top you are only 1/4 mile from the short put-in at the power line crossing.

play wave
About a half mile below submarine is a small rapid marked by a cliff on the left and water flowing over an obstruction on the right. Right below this is a minor play wave/hole, one of he only play spots on the NF.

Crack pipe (Class II+, Mile 4.1)
In the class II rapids below Submarine a double drop appears that is somewhat larger than anything since you left the gorge. The log that was partially blocking this drop has washed out as of 5/15/04. The PVC pipe that was sticking up has also washed out, but beware of future strainers since this spot seems to catch a lot of them. Avoid the left side due to a very undercut rock at the bottom and a small screw-up rock that will try to shove you into it.

Alligator Rock takeout
The first large pull off on N.C. 215 as you are heading up the gorge. You will know when you are getting close when you see the road on the left and a cliff where locals have been dumping garbage for decades. If you ever see anyone dumping garbage, get the license plate and report it to the U.S. Forest Service and to the Streamkeeper. The takeout is named for the jaws-shaped rocks hanging out over the highway just downstream.

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