French Broad River Paddling
Seymour, TN 37865
Beginning west of the Eastern Continental Divide, the French Broad River actually flows northwest through the Appalachian Mountains. From its start in western North Carolina the river flows into Tennessee where it joins the Holston River just outside of Knoxville to create the headwaters of the Tennessee River. Along the way, it gains two sizable tributaries, the Pigeon River and the Nolichucky River after which it is impounded behind Douglas Dam. The elevation profile of the river in Tennessee is quite impressive, as it descends 477 feet over the 102 river miles between the state line and Knoxville. As to its name, the term "broad" was given to two rivers that run through western North Carolina. The French Broad because it flowed into the French colonial territory, the English Broad for the one that remained in English territory, now simplified to the Broad River. Access along the river is somewhat limited, although a good portion of the upper reach of the river is located on U.S. Forest Service land.
Paddling: Upstream of Douglas Dam, the Pigeon River supports an active whitewater paddling industry, sections of the river boasts class II-IV rapids. Around the Knoxville area, the river tames to a class I, more suitable for flatwater paddlers. When water level is high enough for paddling, Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge provides good blueway access; other access points are listed on the blueways map. Rising hills and scenic farmlands border this wide river, broken by occasional islands and shoals. If you're new to paddling or don't have a canoe, the City of Knoxville's Parks & Recreation Dept, partnered with Ijams Nature Center, offers a canoe program that paddles the French Broad River down to the Tennessee River into the downtown waterfront.