The French Broad River

By: Temp

Living in Western North Carolina has many perks about it, but one of those is living next to the French Broad River. This river is used for many different activities, kayaking is a very popular choice, but like all things the river has a history to it that some do not know of.

The river begins just west of the Eastern Continental Divide, which separates the Gulf of Mexico drainage from the watersheds that flow directly into the Atlantic Ocean, and then flows to the north through the Appalachian Mountains.

The river's confluence with the Holston River in Knoxville, Tennessee is the headwaters of the Tennessee River. The river was originally one of two broad rivers in western North Carolina, the other being named the English Broad River (it is now called simply the Broad River). The Broad River flows in a general south-southeasterly direction, while the French Broad flows in a general north-northwesterly direction. The French Broad River also had an older name it used to be called that can be seen in many older maps. This name was the Agiqua River.

The river begins basically in Transylvania County, then flows through Henderson County, through Buncombe County and Asheville where it picks up the Swannanoa River. The river then goes through Madison County and then into Tennessee in Cocke County where it picks up the Pigeon River and the Nolichucky River.

After all this it is impounded behind the Douglas Dam, and then in Sevier County it picks up the Little Pigeon River. It then flows through a gap in Bays Mountain right before it joins the Holston River in Knoxville.

Just like the New River, a river that flows to the north of the French Broad River, scientists believe that the French Broad River is older than the Appalachian Mountains. They believe this because the river actually flows across these mountains.

In 1968, Tennessee designated their portion of the river a state scenic river by the Tennessee Scenic River Act. The 33 miles of the river that are in Tennessee that extend to the Douglas Lake are classified as Class III, Partially Developed.

There is also a major hydroelectric dam that the river is connected to. This is the Douglas Dam, one of the largest Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) developments on the Tennessee River tributary. The dam is also one of the oldest TVA facilities in the region and was originally used to maintain the Manhattan Project and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a nuclear plant, during World War II.

More recently attention has been brought to the French Broad River because of the pollution that has been found in the river. In 1955, The French Broad was published. Written by Wilma Dykeman, the book chronicles the river and its problem. Since then many more books have been written about the river and the issues surrounding the river. There are now many organizations devoted to cleaning and maintaining the river.

In North Carolina, especially in the city of Asheville and its neighboring towns, concern has grown for the river's cleanliness. This area is where much of the cleanup and maintained work has started.

The French Broad River is a wonderful thing to have. To be near it is to be near nature, life, and history. Taking advantage of all its pleasures and offerings while protecting it from the negative effects of human nature is necessary if you live anywhere near this river.

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