French Broad River

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French Broad River
French broad river 9228.JPG
French Broad River in Henderson County, North Carolina
The French Broad River's drainage basin, located in the upper Tennessee River basin
Origin Transylvania County, North Carolina
Mouth Flows into the Tennessee River at Knoxville, Tenn.
Basin countries United States of America

The French Broad River flows 213 miles (343 km)[1] from near the village of Rosman in Transylvania County, North Carolina, into the state of Tennessee. Its confluence with the Holston River at Knoxville is the beginning of the Tennessee River.

The French Broad River was named by white settlers centuries ago because it was one of the two broad rivers in western North Carolina. The one which flowed into land claimed by France at that time was named the "French Broad River", whereas the other, which stayed in land claimed by England – the Colony of North Carolina – was named the "English Broad River". (The latter was later renamed simply the "Broad River"). The name of the French Broad River in French was the Agiqua River, the Native Americans of this area – the Cherokee Indians – called it different names: Poelico, Agiqua (broad) in the mountains, Tahkeeosteh (racing waters) from Asheville down and Zillicoah above Asheville.[2]

The French Broad River begins just west of the Eastern Continental Divide, and from there, it flows northeasterly through the Appalachian Mountains. The river follows a general northeasterly direction as it flows through Transylvania, Henderson, and Buncombe counties. In Buncombe County, the river flows through the city of Asheville, where it receives the water of the Swannanoa River. Downstream of Asheville, the river proceeds north through Madison County, where it flows through its county seat of Marshall. Next, the French Broad River flows northwesterly into Tennessee.

In Cocke County, Tennessee, the French Broad River receives the waters of both the Pigeon River and the Nolichucky River, after which the French Broad River is impounded behind Douglas Dam, forming Douglas Lake. In Sevier County, the French Broad River receives the flow of the Little Pigeon River, and then it flows through a wide gap in Bays Mountain before reaching the flatlands of Tennessee and joining with the Holston River at Knoxville.

The lower portion of the French Broad River is dominated by the major hydroelectric power dam and reservoirs which were built by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and which is one of the larger TVA developments on a tributary of the Tennessee River. (The two other very large ones are Norris Lake on the Clinch River and Cherokee Lake on the Holston River.)

In 1987, the NC General Assembly established the French Broad River State Trail as a blueway which follows the river for 67 miles. The paddle trail is a part of North Carolina State Trails Program, which is a section of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation. A system of launch points locations were created along the river for the trail.

The portion of the French Broad River in Tennessee was designated a state scenic river by the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Approximately 33 miles (53 km) of the river in Cocke County, starting at the North Carolina border and extending downstream to the place where it flows into Douglas Lake, are designated as a Class III, Partially Developed River.

Wilma Dykeman wrote the book The French Broad (1955) about the river. The book brought public attention to concerns about the polluted condition of parts of the river. Current conservation groups include The French Broad Riverkeeper and RiverLink. Facebook also hosts the French Broad Riverkeeper profile to list current river happenings.

The French Broad River is also the subject of the monograph Watershed: The French Broad River (2012) by Jeff Rich.

The French Broad Riverkeeper works for the Western North Carolina Alliance and works to monitor and protect the water quality in the French Broad River Watershed. [1]

RiverLink is a regional non-profit spearheading the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River and its tributaries as a destination for everyone to work, live and play.


The French Broad is one of several ancient rivers which flow across and through rather than down from the Appalachian mountains. It is an example of an antecedence meaning it or its ancestor existed before the mountains. As an antecedence, the river was flowing from southeast to northwest before the Appalachians were created. It cut a path through the mountains as they were created when North America collided with Africa in Pangaea 300 million years ago. Its ancient age is how it is presently able to flow from North Carolina through the mountains to Tennessee rather than draining to the Atlantic Ocean.[3]


The following is a partial list of crossings of the French Broad from Brevard to the confluence with the Tennessee River.

North Carolina[edit]

The river flows south right by Daniel Holbert home


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The National Map". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved Feb 14, 2011. 
  2. ^ French Broad River, Blue Ridge National Heritage Area
  3. ^ Butler, Bill. "Ancestral Rivers of the Eastern United States". Retrieved 14 January 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°57′33″N 83°51′1″W / 35.95917°N 83.85028°W / 35.95917; -83.85028