Monday, November 9, 2015

The French Broad is not a Woman from Paris

A couple of weeks ago, we walked a trail alongside the French Broad River.  This wondrous river begins right here in our county at the Eastern Continental Divide only a few miles from our house.  Called Aqiqua (broad), or Tahkeeosteh (racing water) by the Cherokee, the French Broad is one of the oldest rivers in the United States. Unlike most mountain rivers, the French Broad did not cut its way through the mountains; it is an antecedent drainage basin, meaning the river was here before the mountains.  So the river is older than the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves.  And the Blue Ridge Mountains began forming over 400 million years ago.

Such a lovely river

The French Broad, unlike most rivers in the United States, flows north rather than south.  (I believe there are only two rivers in the eastern US that flow north; the French Broad and New River, also in North Carolina.)  [Addendum/Correction:  As KG Mom noted in her response, there are several rivers, including some in the Eastern United States that run north.  Sorry, I was relying on my grade school study of North Carolina.  At least I did say "I believe" noting that I was not certain.]   The French Broad flows from here in Transylvania County to Asheville and then north to Knoxville, TN.  In Tennessee the French Broad joins the Holston River to become the great Tennessee River.

Gently flowing with relatively mild rapids, the French Broad is very popular for kayaking and canoeing

In pioneer days, the French Broad was used extensively for transporting crops for trade.  The Buncombe Turnpike was a dirt road following the French Broad through the mountains.  A major trade route for livestock, the Turnpike contained several inns and brothels along the way.  Often the livestock drivers would become unhappy with their bosses and stay at the inns, waiting to join up with another drive.  Some called the Turnpike a "river of hogs" because of the number of pigs driven on the hoof from the farms in Tennessee to the mountains of North and South Carolina and areas further south.

The route benefited the NC farmers as well since they could take crops to the Turnpike to sell to the hog and cattle drivers.  Thus the Turnpike played a major role in the economic development of the mountains.  And with its opening in the early 1800s, people of western North Carolina were no longer isolated.

A small island divides the French Broad here

My husband grew up in Asheville and when he was a youth, the French Broad was so contaminated it looked murky and was not fit for swimming or other water sports.  Major initiatives, led by author Wilma Dykeman, worked to clean up the French Broad.  Today it is clear and pure.  Major breweries have moved to our area and Asheville to take advantage of the fresh and clean waters from the French Broad River.

The French Broad doesn't look so broad at this point because of the island dividing it

Such a soothing sight.  I could spend a day just watching this river.

In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.
Leonardo da Vinci


Cheryl said...

Such a beautiful post, I love the history of the river, fascinating.

It is always good to hear that a river has been cleaned and can be used by man and wildlife alike.

Like you, I feel it would be easy to sit by the river, and let our thoughts wander.

Tara said...

now I'll have to research why 2 rivers run north! LOVE you title, by the way! You cheeky monkey!

Ms. A said...

She's a beauty and cleaned up well! Let's hope she stays that way.

Carolina Linthead said...

She is a glorious river! I have gazed upon her beauty many a time.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful river! I love this history so much. I had never considered a river preceding the mountains. Beautiful photos of a stunning river.

Busy Bee Suz said...

What a gorgeous river and a sweet history lesson.
SO thankful for good people who work tirelessly to improve our rivers/oceans.

Ginnie said...

Thanks for the history lesson and your photos are wonderful. Isn't it great when a person, such as Wilma Dykeman, takes on large projects such as cleaning up the river?
Shame on us when we let pollution take over.

Mary Lee said...

I enjoyed this. I've seen the river many times, but knew nothing of its fascinating history. Thanks for the lesson! It's reassuring to be reminded that a river CAN be improved.

Lowcarb team member said...

Such a lovely post and great photo's - thank you so much for sharing these details.
There is always something soothing about being near water.

I do also like the da Vinci quote ...

All the best Jan

Vicki Lane said...

When we moved to Madison Count 40 years ago, 'straight-piping' was common. Many toilets were pied straight to the branches and the branches, of course, flowed into the French Broad. A county-wide initiative (and financial help with acquiring septic tanks) was successful in pretty much ending this practice.

It's such a beautiful river -- I cross it every time I go into town. I didn't know, however, about its predating the mountains. Amazing!

Dykeman's book THE FRENCH BROAD should be required reading for everyone in western NC.

KB said...

I enjoyed reading about the big role this river has played in the history of your area. I especially loved reading that it's cleaner now than in the past. A victory! Your photos are beautiful with the foliage by the river.

What a lovely post.

KGMom said...

Love the tribute to this river--rivers are magical, and even better when they are clean and lovely.
One small bone--there are actually quite a few rivers in the U.S. that flow north. I immediately thought of one (the Red River in North Dakota, which flows in Manitoba, Canada). So I "googled" the topic--and found various lists of north-flowing rivers. One website says at least 30 flow north.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks Donna. Correction made.