Other Things To Do / Links
The French Broad River is a free flowing river with headwaters near Brevard NC, south east of Asheville NC. The river flows off the Blue Ridge Mtns. straight through Asheville. The section of the French Broad River we go whitewater rafting on is in Madison County, northwest of Asheville, near the towns of Marshall and Hot Springs. It's true there are a lot of things to do in Asheville, NC, but only twenty minutes away is a different experience entirely. A rural experience, a wilderness experience. A way for your family or group to reconect to each other and to the earth. The French Broad River is an excellent family whitewater rafting trip. Great for both the beginner and the experienced whitewater rafter.
The towns of Hot Springs, Mars Hill, Marshall and the city of Asheville NC all have lodging and restaurants. Asheville offers the enticements of a big city. Galleries, fine dining, live music, lots of shopping. There are a lot of things to do in Asheville, NC. The smaller towns offer the intimacy of a slower pace and a rural landscape. Their "things to do" focus more on the outdoors. Hiking, biking, and, of course, white water rafting on the French Broad River. The smaller towns also offer the opportunity for discovery. Smaller, local resaurants, galleries, and inns are alive and well in Western North Carolina. Asheville and the surrounding mountains is an area famous for it's arts and crafts and music heritage. Whether you are looking for a weekend get-away, a family whitewater rafting trip on the French Broad River, or a more lengthy vacation, the area has plenty to offer both culturally and in terms of outdoor fun.
Of course whitewater rafting on the French Broad River is high on our list of favorite activities, and a family whitewater rafting trip is hard to beat. In addition to whitewater rafting near Asheville, NC, hiking and mountain biking opportunities are close by, for those who want to play outdoors.
If you’re really looking to get away and maybe spend a couple of days on a trail, the world famous Appalachian Trail goes right through downtown Hot Springs. For information about hikes around Hot Springs or if you need gear for your hike you can check out Bluff Mountain Outfitters located right in downtown Hot Springs. Hot Springs has many lodging options. The Hot Springs Resort and Spa offers cabins, camping and natural mineral springs. Broadwing Farm and Spring Brook Cottages also rent cabins near the town. There are several B&B's in town, including The Duckett House and The Mountain Magnolia Inn . Some of our favorite restaurants in Hot Springs include the The Iron Horse Station, Sweet Imaginations and the Smokey Mountain Diner.
Marshall, plan time to visit!
Note: Blue Heron Whitewater is located at 35 Little Pine Rd. Marshall, NC 28753. We are at the corner of Little Pine Road and Highway 25/70.
Marshall, squeezed between a mountain and the French Broad River, is the county seat of Madison. The town was once so busy on Saturdays people overflowed the sidewalks, and onto the street. That’s what an oldtimer told me, reminiscing about the days before the 25/70 Marshall ByPass was built. It seems the town practically went dormant for decades, with activity mostly centered around the courthouse and post office.
Visit Marshall today and you will find a vibrant community, with a strong emphasis on art and music. The old high school on the island has been beautifully renovated into artist studio spaces, appropriately called Marshall High Studios. Also on the island is a ball field and walking path. Marshall is the home of Madison County Arts Council, which highlights the rich, local talents of artists and musicians, across a range of genres, and hosts entertainers from around the globe.
Penlands Department Store is one business that survived the commerce draught of the last half century. It’s an authentic small town department store, offering any style and size of Carhart clothing you could want, Redwing boots, and an assortment of seasonal produce and like-home canned goodies. Wonderful books written by Madison county authors are made available at Penlands. Another unique shopping opportunity is Good Stuff, offering healthy snacks, an assortment of brews, and lots of hand-crafted good stuff!
A trip to downtown Marshall just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a favorite coffee shop called Zumas. They make the best muffins and cookies. You can get breakfast there, and the eggs are fresh from Flynn Branch Farm, just a few miles away. Come early for lunch and you can take advantage of the Zuma daily special. Not to worry if it sells out! There are plenty of interesting choices in wraps and sandwiches and salads.
If you like books you will delight in a brand new, used book store on North Main, called Lapland Bookshop and Arts. Did you know? Lapland was the town’s original name. The store itself is worth a tour, with its incredible hobbit-like oak door, and artistic attention to detail throughout. And, it’s full of fascinating books!
Just past the town of Marshall, on 25/70 you will see Momma’s Kitchen, which is practically a county landmark. Sherry serves up country style meals, offering a daily special (get there early!), good burgers, beans and corn bread, fried green tomatoes, barbeque with slaw are a few things on the menu. She’s open Monday-Friday for breakfast and lunch.
We’ve recently discovered a restaurant that would satisfy any beef conesuere. It is called Longnecks, and is on the Marshall ByPass. They pride themselves in serving 100% angus beef, and offer 10 ounce burgers, a variety of steaks, handcut fries and onion rings, at reasonable prices. Only open for dinner, this could be a good stop for hungry folks coming off our afternoon Half Day rafting trip.
Sandy Bottom Trail Rides offers horse back riding trips in the Marshall area. They are a family owned outfitter and offer trips of different lengths to fit your schedule.
Whether or not you are traveling with your pets, we can recommend a stay at Ponder Cove Bed & Breakfast , in Madison County just east of Mars Hill. Another unique lodging experience, off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville is the beautiful Sourwood Inn .
And if fly fishing is on your list, our friends at Curtis Wright Outfitters in downtown Weaverville have everything you’ll need related to fishing, including experienced guides.
A visit to Chimney Rock Park , south of Asheville makes a great day trip. There are several hiking paths around the park, including one up to the top of Chimney Rock with an incredible view of Lake Lure.
Art and Culture
Madison County has passed down a tradition of ballads and old time music. its rural nature has attracted artists, organic farmers, and musicians of various genres. You can check out events, from local farmers markets to art festivals to concerts, hosted by the Madison County Arts Council .
Every 2nd Friday night, downtown Marshall hosts French Broad Fridays from 5-9pm, featuring restaurants, shops, open studios and dancing. While you’re down there, we recommend you stop by Zuma Coffee for coffee, a meal or a snack.
Check out the Madison County Farmers and Artisans Market new website at www.marshillmarket.org.
Asheville, NC is the hub of arts and crafts culture in Western North Carolina. There are a lot of things to do in Asheville, NC. Walk around downtown to explore its galleries, eat at some of the many excelllent restaurants, check out the museums or see what’s happening at the Diana Wortham Theatre or the Orange Peel for live shows and music.
The North Carolina Arboretum is a 434-acre public garden located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest . Surrounded by the dense folds of the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains, the Arboretum is nestled in one of the most beautiful natural garden settings in America. Yet another unique thing to do in Asheville, NC.
The Biltmore Estate is another major attraction and a famous must thing to do in Asheville NC. Built by George Vanderbilt in the late 19th century, the Biltmore estate is America’s largest private home and is surrounded by gorgeous gardens and forests.
Western North Carolina offers a wide range of activities for the adventurous vacationer. Whether you’re looking for the cultural activities available in Asheville, NC and the many hot-spots of local art and music, or you're more into a family whitewater rafting trip on the French Broad River and the wide range of outdoor activities available, or a combination of both, Asheville, NC and its surrounding towns have you covered.
The French Broad River connects four mountain counties in western North Carolina. At the upper end, near Brevard, our friends at Headwaters Outfitters provide a canoe rental service and a wonderful outdoor gear shop. In the middle at Asheville our friends at the Asheville Outdoor Center offer a variety of activities on and by the river, and Blue Heron Whitewater helps you access the whitewater stretch, before the French Broad RIver flows out of the mountains, on it's way to Tennessee and beyond.
Many folks are drawn to the beauty of the western North Carolina mountains which provide many whitewater rafting opportunities. A few folks are working hard to keep these mountains and rivers unspoiled, for generations to come. If you want to contribute to maintaining/restoring health to mountain rivers and streams, plant and wildlife, improving water and air quality, here are some organizations that will make good use of your time, talent, and/or cash:
- RiverLink has a proven track record, making the French Broad River more accessible to the public, and improving water quality throughout its watershed. River parks, bike paths, greenways, and conservation easements are results of RiverLink's effectiveness. You can become a Friend of the River! and to applaude you for your action, Blue Heron Whitewater will give you an insulated, reuseable mug, with the Blue Heron logo!!
- Laurel Valley Watch is a grass roots citizens' effort to preserve the rural heritage of Madison County. LVW is working to protect the water quality of Puncheon Fork, a trout stream which eventually flows into the French Broad River, from degradation caused by unsound development practices.
- American Whitewater restores rivers dewatered by hydropower dams, eliminates water degradation, improves public land management, and protects public access to rivers for responsible recreation use, nationwide.