A Guided Canoe Trip on the French Broad River

Every October, Headwaters Outfitters offers its ever popular fall series of guided canoe trips on the French Broad River. Our “Colors of the Fall” guided canoe trips balance nature observation with the quiet relaxation of a canoe or kayak outing. You will paddle 8 miles, approximately 4 hours  down Section 1, a very peaceful yet lively section of the historic French Broad River.

canoes on river

Participants begin arriving at Headwaters Outfitters around 9:15 am  to complete check-in, meet the river guide and organize gear for their canoe trip. At 10:00 am we begin our trip with a short 2 mile shuttle to the launch point at Champion Park. Your guide will review and demonstrate paddling tips and techniques before launching. Along the way you can listen to historical stories of the French Broad and our community, discover wildlife, flora, fauna, and  waterfowl that make their homes along this beautiful river.


Our Color of Fall Guided Canoe Trips fills up rapidly and months in advance. Each river trip is  limited to 10 persons – 5 canoes. Prior canoeing experience is helpful, but not necessary.

The Details

  • Arrive by 9:15 am, dressed in river attire, organized & ready to paddle.
  • Trip rates include your canoe, paddle, lifejacket, river shuttle, and guide service.
  • Trip rates do not include personal items, drinks, snacks, lunch or gratuities.
  • Reservations are secured with 50% non-refundable deposit.
  • Reservations can only be made by phone. 828-877-3106
  • Review our River Trip Tips for a list of suggested items & gear to bring

Summer has come to an end along a peaceful southern Appalachian valley as we prepare to slip our canoes into the water. Gazing up, the sky is spotted with white puffy clouds camouflaging the crisp Carolina blue, a color so common in the fall. The rustle of fall leaves cheerfully swirls through the air and softly lands on the river before the gentle current carries them off. Nature is preparing to settle in for a long winters nap and offers a magnificent array of colors strewn across a larger-than-life canvas.

Grasping our canoe paddles and with a forward stroke we are off, using one of the oldest modes of transportation traveling along one of the world’s oldest rivers; The French Broad. As you paddle downstream quietly, listen and the sounds of the river and its residents captures your full attention and can put on quite the show.


Traveling quietly you can hear the ripple of the water as the bow of your boat breaks the smooth surface. Your guide can point out the Great Blue Heron leading the way, watching intently, we paddle close to where he has landed in a Wild Cherry Tree. When we get close he lifts into the air, pushing the wind from beneath its mighty wings. Taking flight, we hear a swoosh as he continues downstream. Toward the end of our journey Noah, one of kids paddling his own kayak names the majestic bird Chase: he feels like we chased him down the river. The continuous call of the Kingfisher can be shrill as he sweeps back and forth across the river fishing for his supper. The chase is on as these birds unknowingly tease you as they continue to dart in front of your canoe as you paddle down the river.

OspreyLook for the Osprey hovering in the trees waiting to plunge into the river to catch fish. Keep an eye out for the raccoons peeping at you as they take shelter in a hollow tree. Beavers and muskrats taunt you as they play hide and go seek along the rivers bank. Red-winged Blackbirds offer a quick glimpse of the red stripe hidden beneath their jet-black wings.

The riverbank is lined with old and young trees all offering their colorful palette of leaves in preparation for the cold winter. Yellow and brown is the mighty Sycamore, deep red is the old Black cherry, honey gold is the deep-rooted Beech, bright red leaves adorn the Sourwood as do bright yellow leaves canopying the Tulip Poplar.

This journey down the French Broad River is one that memories are made of. Solitude and sanctuary can be gained by the peace one finds while enjoying the beauty Mother Nature has unconditionally given us. One can travel as a solitary paddler or an ideal trip for friends and family. The images of jeweled colored leaves and the crisp fall air will renew your mind and nurture the sense of self for a long time to come. Our experienced guides are an integral part of making this trip a happy one for the amateur or beginner paddler.

Just as many of our forefathers before us did you as well can explore this hidden jewel in Transylvania County. If you ponder the serenity of Mother Nature, you need to join Headwaters Outfitters for the “Colors of Fall.”


COVID-19 Updates
The current update as of April 1st, due to Governor's Order: Going forward until April 29th or further notice:
  • Our Retail Shop is CLOSED and:
    Offering ONLINE Shopping and Gift Cards
    Orders shipped out next business day
    For Call-in orders or order questions please EMAIL US.
  • The Forks of the River Taproom is CLOSED. 
    To-Go Beer orders available for pick-up Saturday 2-5pm. 
    Custom beer and wine orders available with prepayment
    orders can be placed via email or Facebook Messenger
    EMAIL HERE or Visit Us on FACEBOOK
  • Paddling Trips and Rentals
    We are postponing our opening day of paddling season until further notice
    All special events and guided paddling trips are postponed
    All shuttle services have been suspended
    Canoe and Kayak rentals suspended
  • Fishing Trips and Classes
    All Guide Trips and Classes are Postponed Through April 29th- For inquires please EMAIL

We appreciate your support and patience during this time. We will be available for questions, orders and reservations via phone and email. We will continue to provide updates when necessary. From our Headwaters Family to Yours, we send prayers that you and your loved ones stay safe.

The Whitmire Family