French Broad, West Fork - SR 1309 Bridge to US 64 Bridge

French Broad, West Fork, North Carolina, US


SR 1309 Bridge to US 64 Bridge (West Fork)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 3.4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 100 fpm

Upstream view of the 1st slide

Upstream view of the 1st slide
Photo of Upstream view of the 1st slide by Tyler Stewart taken 12/05/02 @ -1

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03439000 350 - 1000 cfs IV-V 00h20m 176 cfs (too low)

River Description

The West Fork is something different for those jaded by the North Fork. It has a slightly different character, and offers the chance to go big more than once. Three times in fact, in a row.

This different and slightly bigger character comes with some consequences though, as this river has taken a life, unlike it's brother. There is a dangerous pothole in the first slide, small but significant seives in the boulder garden, and some bad lumber all through the run.


From Headwaters Outfitters at 64 and 215, go West on 64 and look for a small factory immediately before the small bridge. Turn L into the "Shipping and Receiving" drive and park near the picnic tables.


Turn L (West) on 64, and climb the grade. Turn R immediately past the CITGO gas station. Follow this road (SR 1309) until it crosses the river. Park on the left or right.

You can hike down the river left bank to the first drop to get a feel for the flow. It's about a quarter of a mile.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-10-29 23:52:36

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.3First Slide5.0Hazard Waterfall Photo
0.5Second SlideIV+
0.8Third Slide5.0Hazard Photo
2.5Boulder GardenIV

Rapid Descriptions

First Slide (Class 5.0, Mile 0.3)

First Slide

First Slide
Photo of Tyler Stewart by Scott Houston taken 12/05/02 @ -1"

12 foot broken shelf slide into a 8 foot vertical drop. In THE BOTTOM CENTER OF THE VERTICAL DROP IS A POTHOLE!!!! Usually run starting middle, angled right through the fluff, driving right down the shelves, and powering up into a sliding boof off the right wall at the bottom to clear the hole. Be aware that the shelves can grab your boat and slam you (seen a shoulder dislocation here), and the eddy in the trees on the right can spin you around. The line is tight. If you find yourself going off the bottom drop in the middle, BOOF. A vertical pin here is a VERY real possibility, though the pothole allegedly flushes on the right. There are also those who run right to left (watch the video below), and those who run it "Hard, Fast, and down the Middle" at lower flows (below 0) Clean trail on the left.

Second Slide (Class IV+, Mile 0.5)
A 15-20' slide with a rooster tail 3/4ths of the way down in the middle, and a piton potential on the bottom left. This hole could get stiff. Scout and/or carry on the dry rocks to the left.

Third Slide (Class 5.0, Mile 0.8)

Third Slide

Third Slide
Photo of Tyler Stewart by Scott Houston taken 12/05/02 @ -1"

Long, 25' slide with a fin of rock bisecting the flow. Run right of the fin, and drive right before the final 5' slide, as there is a log laying off the left bank about halfway across the river, in the hole. As of October 2004, there was a blowdown off the right bank hanging into the slide about halfway down. It is still possible to run the slide, but a severe lashing is a definate possibility, as is impalement or straining. The water at the top wants to push you right, away from the fin, into the blowdown. There's only ~4 feet of blue sky between the tree and the fin. Scout or begin the heinous portage on the right. Bring your rope and sticky shoes.

As of October, 2004, there is a log laying across the stream after the pool below Third Slide. At levels over -4", it would be considerate to those who love you to think about walking down the left bank. It is possible to limbo at lower levels, on the right.

Boulder Garden (Class IV, Mile 2.5)
Long, tight, and technical boulder garden. This series begins when car-sized boulders appear after about a mile of flat and class II water. The drops are tight, and the lines numerous. Eddies begin to dissapear the higher the water gets, and the holes get stiffer. Read and run, this is the half-mile long big brother of The Clog. There are several small but significant seives to avoid, and swims could be bad, as could new lumber. Stay on your toes and keep your bow up.

After floating through the moving flatwater, you'll go under US 64 (the first bridge you come to). Look for a faint trail on river L to the picnic tables.

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