Signs of Spring

A guided canoe trip on the French Broad River


Signs of Spring Paddle

We offer our “Signs of Spring” a series of guided canoe trips on selected Saturdays from April through June. This guided canoe trip balances nature observation with the quiet relaxation of a morning canoe outing. Departing at 10 a.m (you must arrive by 9:15 am). from Headwaters, each canoe trip includes all paddling gear, river shuttle, and guide service. Snacks and drinks are available for sale at the shop. Prior canoeing experience is helpful, but not necessary. Reservations are required and are secured with a 50% deposit. The cost is $60 per person, though kids under 10 who sit in the middle of the canoe cost only $30. To confirm a reservation, or for more information, call Headwaters Outfitters at (828) 877-3106.

wakerobinSo Much to See!

Little Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) is just one species found along the French Broad River during Headwaters’ Signs of Spring guided canoe trip. There are over 2,500 species of wildflowers and flowering shrubs in the southern Appalachians, and many of these can be found somewhere along the French Broad River watershed. Thanks to a variety of microclimates and abundant rainfall, the French Broad hosts a beautiful array of spring flowers. The “Signs of Spring” guided trip takes full advantage of this display.



Although you can certainly see spring wildflower displays while hiking, a canoe-eye’s view offers several advantages for experiencing the new seasons’ first blooms. The banks of the French Broad offer some of the richest soils for plant growth, courtesy of regular floods that deposit nitrogen-rich sediments onto the floodplain. Abundant moisture along the river’s banks also provides ideal habitat for riparian-loving species such as orange jewelweed (seen in June), crested dwarf iris (May), bluets (April), purple phacelia (April-May), monkeyflower (June), and bee balm (June-Sept.)




Flowers may be the chief draw of the “Signs of Spring” tour, but April, in particular, is prime time for birders interested in catching sight of spring migrants passing through. You may see a vireos, warblers, tanagers and flycatchers. Sometimes, being on the river gives you a better perspective to spot birds with binoculars or a camera.  Large flowering bellwort is found along the French Broad in limestone-rich pockets.Wood ducks breed along the banks, and can often be seen leading a caravan of fuzzy young through streamside deadfall. Louisiana waterthrushes, Acadian flycatchers, belted kingfishers and great blue herons are regularly spotted by canoeists on the French Broad, as well. Occasionally, an osprey or bald eagle will perch on a dead branch above the river, scanning the water below for vulnerable quarry.

River otter have really made a big comeback since the 1980s, when they were reintroduced to the Smokies. Beaver, fox, long-tailed weasels, mink and skunk can also be spotted along the French Broad.


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