Upper French Broad River Watershed

The French Broad River, known as the “Long Man” to the region’s native Cherokee, is the third oldest river in the world. On high slopes near Devil’s Courthouse it springs into being as pristine headwaters—the river’s “Chattering Children”—that act as arteries to some of the Carolinas’ most unique ecosystems. As the river descends through the Upper French Broad valley, it nourishes one of Western North Carolina’s most productive farming regions. Conserving the Upper French Broad Watershed protects the lifeblood of these local com – munities, natural and cultural alike.

A Growing Heritage of Private and Public Conservation

Although many of the Upper French Broad River’s headwater streams are protected by the vast wilderness of Pisgah National Forest, much of the surrounding open space remains vulnerable to conversion. As resort and residential development seeps deeper into the watershed, a generations-old interconnectedness between ridges, rivers, and the region’s residents is gradually eroding. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and partners are working with willing private landowners to cultivate a network of conserved farms and forests around the fertile ground of Pisgah’s public land.

Rich Natural Heritage

From the high balds and rock outcrops of the Tanasee, Pisgah, and Blue Ridge, the forks of the French Broad tumble nearly 4,000 feet into a wide, fertile river valley. The diversity of this magnificent landscape is reflected in the area’s flora and fauna. According to the North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan, the watershed supports numerous species that are found “virtually nowhere else in the Blue Ridge.” In particular, the Upper French Broad River is identified as a potential restoration site for populations of five rare mussel species, including the extant, federally endangered Appalachian Elktoe.

Exemplary Water Quality

The rich biodiversity of the Upper French Broad watershed is sustained by superlative water quality. Four of the river’s tributaries, totaling almost 60 river miles, have been designated Significant Aquatic Habitat by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, and an additional 55 miles of stream are classified as High Quality or Outstanding Resource Waters. The Upper French Broad Watershed also supplies drinking water to the major population centers of three counties, and the quality of its water has a profound regional economic impact.

Sustainable Economy

In the waters of the Upper French Broad, environmental and economic concerns flow together. This portion of the river was the state’s first waterway to be designated a “North Carolina River Trail,” and the head – water region supports a vibrant local industry of outfitters and angling guide services. This area, home to nearly 30,000 acres of working farmland, is also unique in its loyalty to its agricultural heritage. A growing farmland conservation movement demonstrates a collective desire to sustain the local farm economy for future generations.

Since 1996, when Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) accepted its first conservation easement on a working farm and forest in the Mills River community, the Upper French Broad Watershed has seen both continual development and consistent, concerted conservation. CMLC now holds conservation easements on nearly 5,000 acres of diverse lands in this focus area, ranging from family cattle farms to lush summer camps. In the years since that initial easement donation, CMLC has used private funds to leverage public funds and donated land value. Each project is strategically targeted, using the North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan, the Forks of the French Broad Riparian Corridor Conservation Plan, and other data sources to set priorities for land conservation.

Leave Your Legacy

An additional 8,000 acres of this landscape, with a conservation value of approximately $33.6 million, is at immediate risk and targeted for protection. There are few ways that you can leave a more lasting, tangible legacy than through land conservation. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to help preserve this magnificent watershed. Each donation brings us closer, acre by acre, to preserving a sustainable landscape in which future generations can work, recreate, and reflect.


Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
PO Box 2822, Hendersonville, NC 28793
828-697-5777 www.carolinamountain.org