As Asheville native and environmental icon Wilma Dykeman once wrote:
“Water is a living thing; it is life itself. In it, life began.”
It is no coincidence that many of Western North Carolina’s towns were built along rivers. In addition to their life-giving waters, WNC rivers have played an important role in facilitating manufacturing and trade. While many rivers no longer serve manufacturing, in recent years, they’ve been a boon for both residents and tourism.
Today, rivers have become an essential component of the region’s lifestyle, offering a continuous source of enjoyment for the people who live here. No matter where you are in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find happiness near a river. People of all ages enjoy fishing, paddle sports, and just quietly walking through greenspaces alongside the banks.
Learn more about the revitalization of the French Broad River in the video below, as well as its ever-growing popularity as a source of outdoor recreation.
Rivers of Life Run through WNC
The phrase “river of life” does not refer just to their importance to humans. Plants and animals grow and thrive along rivers because water is so essential to life itself.
Fishing in the North Carolina mountains is an exceptional experience. Western North Carolina is a trout fishing haven, with over 3,000 miles of trout streams open to fishing throughout the region. With both wild and stocked trout available for pursuit, there is no shortage of places to wet a line.
“We are really lucky in our area to have thousands of miles of trout water,” said Jason Van Dyke, a fly fishing guide with popular outfitter Hunter Banks. “In Western North Carolina, you really have the benefit of having not only a great stocking program with the state, but the opportunity for some fantastic wild trout fishing. It’s rare in the world to have this many options for fly fishing. Any direction you go from town, you can be on fantastic water.”
Rivers Offer Countless Recreation Opportunities
Our natural community resources have captured the attention of the rest of the country. For instance, Outside Magazine has named Asheville among the best river towns in America. And that attention has attracted tourists and professionals to the region.
“I moved up here from Charleston, South Carolina. I wanted to go to the mountains,” says Justyn Thompson, owner of Southern Raft Supply and Watershed Drybags. “Western North Carolina offered lots of rivers—that’s what we had here to fulfill that need for me. So with that, I took a white-water kayaking class at Warren Wilson the first year I was there, and from there, I was just hooked.”
With most rivers supporting multiple access points along their banks, there are few places where you’ll find more opportunities to enjoy them than in WNC.
“We’re super lucky to have as many watersheds in Western North Carolina as we do,” said Thompson. “And the only place I could think that would even be comparable are rainforests, in Costa Rica and places like that. We have so much great running water here.”
Rivers Link Communities across WNC
Once used as industrial waste dumps, many people have worked tirelessly in recent decades to protect and restore these precious natural resources. One of those people is Karen Cragnolin. In 1987, she founded RiverLink, a group devoted to the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River.
“RiverLink is very much a volunteer-based organization,” said Cragnolin. “We have over 1,700 volunteers, and they range from PhDs, who help us with monitoring our fighter remediation clean-up sites, to school children to companies who have full teams on their staff who come out and help us clean the river.”
These community members come together regularly to support the lifeline that runs through our region. At the river, there are no divides between age, race, color, or creed. The French Broad welcomes all.
“It’s really wonderful to see the community come together. The river’s kind of the melting pot,” said Cragnolin. “It’s where everybody meets. And it’s young and it’s old and it’s healthy and who want to get healthy. It’s people who love art, it’s people who love crafts, it’s people who really love Western North Carolina.”
Learn More about Rivers in WNC
We are so fortunate in Western North Carolina to have such a diverse number of rivers. They both provide economic vitality to our region and give us a place to play, restore, and most importantly, connect our communities.
”The French Broad River is not only great fishing and great boating and a great place to have a picnic and a great place to listen to music, because we do summer concerts on the river,” said Cragnolin. “It is also the drinking water source for over a million people. It’s clean, it’s pristine, and it’s attracted breweries from all across the country.”
For more information on the many ways there are to Live the Life You Choose in Western North Carolina, contact your Beverly-Hanks agent or subscribe to our blog.