Most Frequently Asked Questions.
1. How often do trips leave?
Our River Adventures are scheduled to depart on the hour from 10 am until 1 pm during the months of April, May, September and October. During the months of June, July, & August, river trips depart on the hour from 9 am until 2 pm. You will need to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to your trip departure time to complete check-in.
2. Do I need to make reservations?
Yes, we highly suggest reservations, even at the last minute. Our river trips are often full on weekends and holidays. We are happy to accommodate walk-ins when space is available.
2a. What is Check-in?
When checking in before your river trip, you will need to have 30 minutes to read and complete release forms, pay for your river trip, purchase supplies, review river map, watch a twelve minute safety video, and receive river gear. This does not give you time to change clothes, make sandwiches, or pack your personal supplies. Arrive ready to get on the river or give yourself extra time.
3. Do we go by ourselves or do we go with other people?
We transport all river guests in the same vehicle to and from the river. It is less than a 1 mile drive to the put-in. It is likely that other guests will be traveling with you to and from the river as well as listening to our river orientation. Once you are on the river, you do not have to stay with your put-on group. Because the river twists and turns, you are not likely to see other paddlers while on the river.
4. Do I have to wear a life jacket?
ABSOLUTELY! More than 90% of deaths in boating are from drowning. And 80% of those drowning victims were not wearing a personal flotation device. It’s important to wear a PFD! They protect against drowning and can help protect against hypothermia. Exposure to cold water is another major killer in boating accidents. We don’t take chances.
All participants are required to wear LIFE JACKETS & SHOES at all times while on the river!
5. Do I have to paddle?
Yes, you do have to paddle. The average current in our section of the French Broad River flows about two to three miles an hour. The river twists and turns through a rural mountain valley and you do have to steer your canoe or kayak to avoid river obstacles.
6. What is the age limit?
We do not have an age limit, but do require that all participants be able to swim. This is determined at the discretion of parents and Headwaters Outfitters. Ask us ahead of time if there is a question.
7. What are physical limitations?
Pregnant women, people with injuries/recent surgeries or other medical situations should consult with your physician before attempting any river activities. All participants must be able to swim. Our canoes and kayaks have weight capacities, we cannot exceed those limits. Please call for individual concerns.
8. How do I get back to my car from my river trip?
Our river trip fees include all transportation. We transport you to and from the river. You will be paddling downstream away from our river shop. We will meet you at the take-out at a predetermined time and shuttle you and your equipment back to the river shop.
9. How many people can ride in a canoe?
Prices are based on two people per canoe, which is ideal. A third person riding in the center of the canoe rides at a reduced rate. When riding in the middle, guests 11 years and above pay $30.00 while kids 10 years of age and under ride at $20.00 each. No more than 3 adults or two adults and two small children may ride in the canoe. The combined weight of the kids or the 3rd adult cannot be more than 150 lbs. We use a variety of canoes in our rental fleet, but each canoe has 2 contoured molded seats (a backrest can be rented for $2.00 if you need lumbar support). For the third person or kids, We also have drop-in seats available for rent at $2.00 per seat which adds a bench seat to the middle of the canoe. For those not wanting to rent a drop-in seat, we are happy to provide a cushion for the person riding in the middle at no extra charge.
10. What if it rains? Weather:
We are in the mountains and the weather can change quickly. There are several different Web links for the mountains of North Carolina. We are between them! Asheville is to our northeast and Greenville is to our south. Here is the weather link we use most often. We operate trips in rain but do not operate when the river is high (above 3′ on the Rosman River Gauge), when it is thunderstorming, or when the sum of air and water temperature does not exceed 100 degrees.
11.What do I do if it starts lightning while I am on the river?
We do not operate river trips during lightning storms, however weather in the mountains can change drastically, so you can suddenly find yourself in the middle of a thunderstorm. The river is sunken, with high river banks, serving much like a drainage ditch. You are better off to stay in your watercraft in the river, the lowest area around, instead of climbing a river bank getting under tall trees, or running across a wide open field. Continue paddling until you reach the next bridge, pull your watercraft up, get under the bridge and sit on your life jacket. We will conduct bridge searches in the event of a thunderstorm.
12. How cold is the water, how deep?
The French Broad begins at our river shop with the joining of its North and West Forks. As you paddle downstream you will pass the entrance of the Middle and East Forks. All forks originate from springs coming out from under the Blue Ridge Mountains. The mountain water is cold, but ever so refreshing on a hot summer’s day. The average summer temperature of the river is 70 degrees. Spring and fall the river temperature can be anywhere from 50 – 60 degrees. This all depends on air temperatures and rainfall.
This section of the French Broad River averages 2 – 4 feet deep. You will paddle across some shallow shoals where you will need to read the river and find the deepest channel. You will also find areas 10-12 feet deep, great fishing or swimming holes. The river on average is 30-40 feet wide.
13. Are there any snakes? Spiders?
Yes, and all snakes can swim. Avoiding snakes while canoeing, fishing, tubing, boating is similar to avoiding snakes on land in that you want to stay away from areas that the snakes use for sunning. This means avoid drifting underneath overhanging tree branches. Many of the water snakes like to sun on tree branches then drop into the water when they detect movement.
Of the 37 species of snakes throughout North Carolina, only six are venomous: We are in the western part of the state. The northern water snake is the most commonly seen along the French Broad River and it is not poisonous.
1. Copperhead (found throughout NC)
2. Canebrake Rattlesnake (found throughout NC)
3. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (found in southeastern NC)
4. Pigmy Rattlesnake (found in southeastern NC)
5. Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin (found in wetland areas in the eastern half of NC)
6. Coral Snake (the rarest, found in the south and southeastern areas of NC)
They use the water’s surface tension to glide and can lift 1/4 to 1/3 of their body length off of the water surface. Some snakes, such as northern water snakes, red belly water snakes, brown water snakes, banded water snakes, are more likely to be encountered on or near the water. A snake on land can only lunge forward (strike) a distance of half of its body length. A snake on water does not have a solid surface to thrust against, so its strike range while swimming is extremely limited. Snakes prefer to flee rather than fight. But if they feel cornered or threatened, or if they are accidentally stepped on or provoked, a water snake (venomous or non-venomous) seldom backs down.
Spiders, especially “Tree Spiders,” are in abundance on the river. These spiders will drop into your boat if you get up under tree branches or into the bushes. To avoid spiders, keep out of the bushes and out from under tree branches.
14. What is the river like? Are there any rapids?
A large portion of our customers are return guests. They experienced their very first paddling trip with us and loved it so much that they return again and again! The French Broad River is formed at our River Shop at the “Forks of the River” The upper reaches of the river are primarily flat, flowing over shallow shoals alternating between farm lands and wooded areas. “It is ideal for quiet float trips,” according to Bob & David Benner in “A Canoeing Guide to the Carolinas.” This section of the river is rated on the international level of difficulty to paddle as class 1 & 2
From the Safety Code of the American Whitewater Affiliation
INTERNATIONAL SCALE OF RIVER DIFFICULTY
• Class I: Easy, fast moving water with riffles and small waves, few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.
• Class II: Novice, straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.
• Class III: Intermediate, rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.
• Class IV: Advanced, intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting is necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong Eskimo roll is highly recommended.
• Class V: Expert. Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to above average endangerment. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes, or steep congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies may exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is mandatory but often difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is difficult even for experts. A very reliable Eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential for survival.
• Class VI: Extreme, one grade more difficult than Class V. These runs often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. This class does not represent drops thought to be un-runable, but may include rapids which are only occasionally run.
15. Do I have to sign a release form? Why?
Headwaters Outfitters has done everything possible to assure our guests a rewarding experience. We have been professional river outfitters for twenty-five years. However, we wish to inform our guests that river running is not entirely risk free. Unlike a theme park setting, your adventure will take place in a natural environment, over which Headwaters Outfitters has no control. Therefore, in order to participate in any river activities offered at Headwaters Outfitters, participants must read, complete and sign our “Acknowledgment of Risk and Release of Liability Form” All participants under the age of 18 must have the form completed and signed by their legal guardians.
Headwaters Outfitters makes every effort to provide you a wonderful day on the river however,ALL RIVER ACTIVITIES ARE RISK SPORTS. BOTH KNOWN AND UNKNOWN DANGERS EXIST. THERE ARE NO LIFEGUARDS OR SAFETY PERSONNEL ON THE RIVER. You must assume responsibility for your safety and that of your children. Headwaters Outfitters does not assume liability to personal injury, loss or damage to personal property. Our release form is a legal document , read it carefully.
16. Can I bring my Child’s best friend?
Yes, so long as you have obtained permission from their parents/legal guardian by having them read, fill out, and sign our “Acknowledgement of risk and release of liability form” This form is available to print from our web site. Don’t forget to bring the form with you! You cannot sign for a minor unless it is your own child whom you have legal custody of.
17. Can I bring my dog?
No & yes. We transport all guests to and from the river in 15 passenger vans. We have experienced numerous problems transporting pets and have gone to a no pet policy. We have had customers being bitten, having allergic reactions, toenail holes punched in our seats, and even accidents. HOWEVER, if you would like to transport your pet to and from the river in your vehicle we can make special arrangements for you. You will have to drive your car 1 mile to the put-in, leave your car, then at the end of the trip leave your pet at the take-out (with a member of your party). We will take you back to your car and then you can go back and get your pet. This seems to work for those who insist on bringing pets. Please note pets seem to move around in the canoe, which tends to capsize small boats. Make sure pets do not harass any wildlife or farm animals along the way.
18. What about food? Is there a place to picnic?
In our river shop we sell a variety of drinks and snacks. There are no Mickey D’s along the way. You are welcome to bring along a picnic with you. Remember that all gear is subject to getting wet, so pack accordingly. No Styrofoam or glass containers are permitted on the river. Some of our favorite river food includes apples, bananas, trail mix, cheese and crackers. Plenty of drinking water or drinks (no glass containers, please). There are many great places to pull your boat over and have a picnic, but please keep in mind that the land on both sides of the river is privately owned. Please be respectful and pack your trash out with you.
19. How much is my deposit?
In order to keep our overhead costs down, we do not take deposits except for large group trips, but we do ask that if for any reason you need to cancel your reservation to please let us know ASAP. We appreciate this in advance.
20. Can I bring my own boat or gear?
• Canoes & Kayaks – Headwaters Outfitters does provide shuttle service for guests who have their own canoes. If you are part of a group who is participating in one of our river trips and want to use your own canoe or kayak, we will shuttle you and your boat for $25.00 (per boat fee). NOTE: This is only available if we have seats available in the van. If we have to take an additional van for your transportation we will charge you full shuttle rates.
• Life Jackets– Everyone while on the river must wear a life jacket. We are happy to let you wear your personal life jacket as long as it is US Coast Guard approved rated Type 1, 2 or 3.
21. What is your alcohol policy?
Alcohol or the use of illegal drugs is not permitted by the Headwaters Outfitters. North Carolina has alcohol content laws for driving and boating, as well as no open containers in vehicles. Alcohol and river activities…canoeing, kayaking, tubing and swimming… do NOT mix.
22. Can I fish?
Bring your fishing rod and North Carolina fishing license (available for purchase online at NC Wildlife Resources Comission), or you can purchase a license with credit or debit card at our River shop.
• NC Residents-year $20.00.
• Out-of-state-year $40.00.
23. What to Bring:
A great attitude – be ready for fun in the outdoors. Tennis shoes or river shoes- NO BARE FEET, NO FLIP FLOPS. Dress in layers for warmth; swim suit, light jacket, sun glasses, hat, suntan lotion, bug spray, cooler, drinks and snacks, a towel. A dry pair of shoes and change of clothes is nice to be left in the car for you to change into for your ride home.
24. What not to bring.
Do not bring valuables on trip (jewelry, rings, money, etc.) Lock in car or better yet, leave at home. Do not take anything on the river that you would hate to lose. We do have dry bags and dry storage cases for purchase at our shop.
25. Can we stop along the way?
Yes, along the way you will find rocky beaches where you can stop and picnic. All the property along both sides of the river is privately owned. You must respect private property. Bring-out all trash that you take with you. Leave all wildlife and farm animals alone.
26. What if I miss my take-out/time or lose equipment?
In the last 25 years we have found that it is rare for guests to pass their take-out or to be late for their scheduled pick-up. Usually they do not understand the importance of pick-up timing. For your safety, we begin rescue procedures when guests are 30 minutes late. We do everything possible to keep our fees low. If we have to run extra shuttles or come looking for paddlers past the take-out, we must pass on this added expense to the customer. Please note we are more than happy to allow you more time on the river for fishing, etc. but once we agree on a pick-up time it is your responsibility to arrive on time.
• PASS your TAKE-OUT = $35 per canoe/kayak
• MISS your Scheduled pick-up = $20 per canoe/kayak
• LOSE equipment = $40 per lost life jacket, $20 per canoe paddle, $40 per lost kayak paddle
• BOAT RECOVERY = Starts at $40, plus $25 per hour
• Stolen, damaged or unrecoverable canoe fee $675
27. Do you have group discounts?
Yes, we offer group rates of $35.00 per person for our Hannah Ford River Adventure and $40.00 per person rate for our Island Ford River Adventure providing the following guidelines are met. Note- this rate does not include gratuities.
Group Consists of ten or more paddlers. If group numbers drop below the minimum number of 10 persons, you pay regular full trip rates. After meeting the 10 person requirement the 3rd person riding in the middle of the canoe regardless of age may ride at a discount rate of $15. There are 2 seats per canoe, however drop-in seats are available for rental at $2. per seat –1 per canoe. We offer, at no charge, a seat cushion for those riding in the bottom of the canoe. One person, the designated “Trip Leader” handles all correspondence including reservations, payments, and turning in release forms. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance and are confirmed with a 50% deposit.
28. How do we know where to stop?
Each party is given a river map and your river host will review your take-out location during orientation, and before putting you on the river. All take-outs are clearly marked. You cannot get lost.
29. Do we have a guide?
No, guides are not required. The river does not fork, and take out points are marked by a non-movable object, such as a bridge. We do have river guides available for hire for an additional fee. River guides are available for $125.00 per guide for the Hannah Ford Trip or our Island Ford trip.
30. Where do I go to the bathroom while on the river?
There are no restrooms on the river. For your convenience we do have Port-a-johns available at the river shop and at our Hannah Ford take-out.
31. What is your cancellation policy?
If you make a reservation for a group paddling trip or for a fly-fishing trip, with a 50% deposit, our cancellation policy is as follows: River trips depart rain or shine. Electrical storms or high water levels are the sole exceptions. If you cancel at least 7 days before your trip, you’ll get back your entire deposit minus a $30 administration fee. If you cancel 3-6 days before your trip, you’ll get half your deposit back. If you cancel the day before or day of your trip, you receive no refund. If you fail to show at all, your credit card will be charged for the entire balance of the trip.