The French Broad River is one of the two rivers that combines to form the Tennessee River. This river that starts in Western North Carolina has been a huge influence on the economic advancement of the state of Tennessee and has had a huge impact on Sevierville itself. These rambling waters have been celebrated for years and have provided plenty of recreation opportunities, from fishing to boating.
As the French Broad River begins its journey in Tennessee, it flows through Cocke County (next to Sevier County). The Pigeon River and the Nolichucky both empty into the French Broad before the river meets Douglas Dam and forms Douglas Lake. This lake, formed by the damming of the river was a TVA project and has form ed one of the best sports fishing lakes in Tennessee. Dandridge, TN sits on the banks of the river and people visiting the Tennessee side of the Smokies find themselves drawn to Douglas Lake for its beauty and for the recreational opportunities that it offers.
Past the dam, the French Broad continues on its way and it is to the next 10 miles of the river that I would like to draw your attention. This ten mile stretch of water might be one of the best flatwater kayaking and canoeing rivers in the state. Using one of the public ramps right below the dam, if you time your trip with the times they are generating water, you can start your paddle down the river in style – with a push of water behind you. The first 5 miles of this float will take you through the full range of of the French Broad from narrowing turns and twists where the water moves relatively fast to broad sections of flatwater where you have to paddle to go anywhere. 5 miles form the dam, you reach a take out under the Hwy 66 bridge near the Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Stop here and plan for your trip back to your car or continue down the river for another 5 miles.
The second part of this 10 mile float starts with a set of rapids where the Little Pigeon River dumps into the French Broad. These are barely class 1 rapids but they are fun to play in. The river will again swell and narow as it winds around bend after bend. You will start to see big crappie in the water and notice that the bank on the right hand side of the river is dotted with eagle nest here and there. If you are lucky and take you time you might get to see some of the birds in action. About 1 mile before the Ellis take out (10 miles from the dam) you will come to a small island with a class 2 rapid on one side of the island and a very shallow portion on the other side. Right past the rapids are a great place to play in the water and enjoy the river.
If you continue on down the French Broad past the Ellis take out you will eventually run into the Holston. It is at this point, that the Tennessee River is formed at the convulsion of these two rivers. The Tennessee then continues on into Knoxville and heads south. The French Broad is a great place to play int he water and take in the sights. Rent a canoe or a kayak and get out to the great outdoors.