French Broad

French Broad River, Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

I’ll admit that the name makes me giggle, as I picture some brassy Parisian dame swaggairing down ze boulevard wizout geeving a feeg for ennywan, espèces de salauds, quoi!

But the French Broad River is far more interesting than that. It flows in a northwesterly direction, which is completely and utterly counterintuitive, especially as it somehow crosses the Smoky Mountains in the process. It winds up in Tennessee, where some 70 years ago it became subject to the Tennessee Valley Authority (a major Depression era government project that created Douglas Dam and Lake, among other things). It joins the Holstein River in Knoxville to form the Tennessee River.

I think this geological anomaly, the northwest-flowing river, in part contributes to the way Asheville feels culturally so unlike an East Coast city. It is oriented westward, to the mountains; it doesn’t inevitably face down to the sea.

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2 Responses to French Broad
  1. Dave Memphis MOJO
    January 16, 2013 | 12:45 pm

    Do you remember the Snail Darter controversy? A U. of Tenn. biologist/professor discovered it and that it would go extinct if a certain dam was completed. It went all the way to the Supreme Court. They finally ruled that the dam could be completed, but in the meantime, the snail darter was transplanted to other rivers including the French Broad River.

  2. NT
    January 16, 2013 | 12:49 pm

    It rings a vague bell…