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Barnard to Hot Springs (Section 9)

Difficulty: Class III-IV

Length: 8.2 Miles

The French Broad is wider and stronger than any of the rivers we have talked about to this point. You will need to go hard to catch your eddies and make your ferries. The put-in for FB9 is a small park with a nice parking lot upstream of the bridge. They do have porta-johns at the site, but no other amenities. There are two take outs on the FB9: Stackhouse and Hot Springs. Most folks end their FB9 at Stackhouse. If you have large number novice boaters who on the FB9 for the first time you may want to consider taking out at Stackhouse, the fatigue and stress factor from paddling a new/ larger river can take a toll. This take-out is on river right just below Stackhouse Rapid. From Branard to Stackhouse the FB9 is a fairly continuous class II-III run. After Stackhouse there is a 4 mile known as Windy Flats, which is mostly flat, often windy, and sometimes shallow, before you reach your next rapid. Most folks consider 1200 cfs to be the minimum flow to paddle across windy flats. There are two significant rapids on this lower stretch: Kayakers Ledge (Class III) and Frank Bells (Class IV). Both are fun and challenging rapids that have sneaks on the left side of the river. The take out is just up stream of the bridge on river right.

American Whitewater is one of the best sources for finding information about a new river and current river conditions. Here is the AW page for the French Broad Section 9.

Flow Information

The FB9 is runnable from 700-7000cfs. As a new boater we recommend that you stay under 2400cfs. The river will becomes pushy above 2500 and develops some big holes, and cross currents over 5000.


AW lists 14 named rapids between the put in and Stackhouse. Below Stackhouse there are 3 more significant features.  AW does a great job describing all of these features, check it out.  Lets take a look at a few of the features from WW101 perspective.

  • Maze: This section is a long rapid, it's a great opportunity to work on your river reading skills. The rapid is a series of rock ledges with several breaks in each. This results in a multitude of possible lines through this rapid. It's important to keep your hips loose and maintain proper boat angle as you work your way through this rapid.

  • S-Turn: There are several alternate lines around this feature. The "traditional" line  let's you work on your ability to ferry across current.  You start on river right and ferry across toward the "pizza" shape rock just to the left of the chute. As you reach the chute, peel out to the right and run the chute. At the bottom you can catch the eddy to the left behind the "pizza" rock.

  • Big Pillow:  As you can gather from the name there is a big pillow formed by a large rock at the bottom of the rapid.  The line though Big Pillow is a big wave train that starts left center of the river. There are two eddies on the right before the pillow at the bottom. They are separated by a small curler wave. You can catch either eddy, the top one is a little smaller and more difficult to catch.  As you go into the eddy remember to paddle hard, the current here is stronger than it looks. If you don't go hard you might get washed out of the eddy.  Once you peel out back into the current you need to have right boat angle as you head toward Big Pillow. You want to go to the right of the Big Pillow. There is big eddy on the right at the bottom.

  • ​Kayaker's Ledge: This is the first rapid after Windy Flats. The river splits around an island, if you want to sneak this one you can take the left channel. Kayaker's Ledge is a channel wide drop that can be scouted from the right bank. To run the drop you want to head over the drop just left of the tongue on the left side. Go over with left boat angle. There is large eddy on river left. If you hit the drop correctly you will boof into the eddy.  You will need to ferry across below the falls to the eddy on river right. Be cautious not to get to close to the base of the falls and get pulled into the recirculation. From the right eddy you can see down stream to a quick eddy catch on the right. Midway between the down the channel you will see a small curler wave. Hit the right edge of this wave with right boat angle and you will shoot into the eddy at the bottom.

  • Frank Bell's: This is the biggest rapid on FB9 and it cannot be scouted from the top. You can sneak it by going around the left side of the island.  The traditional line through Frank Bell's runs though some class III boogie water on the left side. This leads up to an eddy on left side of the channel. The line into this eddy can be a little tight, keep your hips loose and proper body position.  Franks Bell's is composed of two large holes at the bottom of the rapid. You will need to ferry out from the eddy to the center of the channel, where you will need to split the two large holes at the bottom. The bottom move is similar to Nantahala Falls, but with more water.

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