Large French impact

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ASHEVILLE, NC – At 2,830 miles and $3.8 billion, the impact of the French Broad River in the state of North Carolina is enormous.

What do you want to know:

  • The French Broad represents 3.8 billion dollars each year
  • That’s more than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway combined
  • Most of the money comes from tourism
  • The Asheville Adventure Company is one of the companies that uses the river for water sports and biking

“I think it’s shocking” Asheville Adventure Company said tour guide Ben Crowe from a canoe as it floated down the river. “But at the same time, I absolutely see it because from the upper course to the tail, over 200 miles of recreation for beginners and experts alike.”

In March, the French Broad River Partnership announced that he had been the subject of a study on the French Broad and found that it attracted $3.8 billion every year. That’s more than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ($1.3 billion) and Blue Ridge Parkway ($1.4 billion) combined.

FBRP researched and surveyed over 450 people who use the river and over 100 businesses that use the river for some or all of their operations.

From FBRP:

  • The watershed receives 6.9 million river-influenced visitors annually. Visitors spend an average of $1,277 per visit (3.2 people), with most going to accommodation, food and beverage, which accounts for $2.7 billion annually in visitor spending.
  • The most common reasons for visiting the watershed are hiking (27.5% of visitors), rafting (23.1%) and kayaking (20%), followed by fishing (15.9%), jogging/walking (14.5%) and parks (14.2%). ).
  • River-dependent businesses create or maintain 38,554 jobs each year, earning the region about $273 million in annual federal tax revenue and $234 million in annual state and local tax revenue.

“The French Broad is really the cornerstone that runs through the town of Asheville, basically,” Crowe’s colleague Grant Valstad said. “So many businesses run with this, people take advantage of it in the summer to really cool off and relax.”

Crowe and Valstad have about a decade of time with the adventure company combined between them. Take a ride on the river with them and you will understand its popularity.

“It’s really something special to be part of someone’s memories, man,” Crowe said. “To be able to keep a five-star business going here just means the world to me.”

The sentiment goes for thousands of Ashevillians and tourists across the country.

“It’s my retirement job, I couldn’t be happier,” Valstad said. “Being able to play on the water all day is really my place.”

Water sports aren’t the only thing the river is used for. Eating, zip-lining and even cycling are part of his daily life.

“It’s a shocking number but it’s not like a huge surprise,” Harrison Johnston said.

Johnston works at the Asheville Adventure Company as a bicycle tour guide. He spends almost every day on the trails.

“I really love seeing nature and I kind of like being outdoors, especially when it’s hot. So I appreciate the spring and summer seasons,” Johnston said. “But basically everything, whether it’s exercising outside or just hanging out, I really enjoy spending time outdoors.”

He regularly used the French Broad but for leisure, not for work. At least not until COVID-19 changes everything.

“It was a bit like my job during a pandemic. I really wanted to be outside. I worked for a local brewery for a while, which Asheville has a lot of,” Johnston said. “But I really wanted to be outdoors, especially when the weather was nice, so being a tour guide was the absolutely perfect thing.”

The rest is history.

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