Mile 11 to Mile 19: French Broad River Movie Progress Report

My family and I are trying to make a movie about the French Broad River, the people who use it, and the political and social issues that surround it. We hope to raft 149 miles of the river from Rosman, NC to Newport, TN. We plan to do this in sections.

The plan for today was to put in near mile 11 at what is called Island Ford River Access and get out of the river at HapSimpson Park just outside of Brevard, NC.

Here’s our video report of how it went:


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Getting Ready For the Journey

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Scouting the Film Location: A Drive Along the French Broad River

French Broad River Movie Progress Report

July 29, 2016.

Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of this post.

Since at the moment we four Torgs have plans to raft the entire length of the 149 miles of the French Broad River in sections, we decided to check things out by driving along the river from Asheville, North Carolina where we live to Newport, Tennessee.

French Broad River, rafting, kayaking, Asheville, things to do, movie, documentary, Rosman, river access, Grail Moviehouse

lunch by the French Broad River

This would normally be about a seventy mile drive from our house, but we lengthened it by criss crossing the French Broad as much as we could.

French Broad River, MountainTrue, Asheville, things to do, rafting, kayaking, tubing, Grail Moviehouse

Section 9 River Map from River Keeper’s Guide by Chris Gibbs and Hartwell Carson

I wanted to get a glimpse of what is called Section 9, the wildest part of the river. We stopped at as many access sites as we could to shoot some video and so we would have a general idea of what to expect when we make it this far north. We also talked with lots of people, a few of whom you’ll see in our video below.

The plan is to make the film about the community that surrounds the French Broad, and the social and political issues that surround it. What you’re watching know is just an update on our progress. Thanks for checking it out!





French Broad River Keeper is his Title: Torg Stories Podcast

I want to make a movie about the French Broad River, and so on this week’s Torg Stories podcast, I talk with Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper. Carson works for an organization called Mountaintrue

You can listen to the podcast on the player below or on your iPhone by clicking here for the iTunes link.

Click player below to listen to podcast from this site

editorial note: I uploaded the raw file without the intro and music

Hope you enjoy getting right into my conversation with Hartwell!


For the first time ever, this week’s episode is also available as a video podcast:

I think my interest in making this movie probably has its origins in all the years I spent dinking around in a john boat on the Tippecanoe River in Winamac, Indiana. Now I live in Asheville, North Carolina where you can’t go anywhere without seeing a kayak or canoe on top of somebody’s car. I wanted to get on the river and as my wife and I looked at the cost of our options and what might fit us best, we decided on a used whitewater raft. We could be together as a family. The raft could do both the calm and more rowdy stretches of the river. To start the process of making the film, I knew I wanted to learn about the river, the community that uses it, and the social and political issues that surround it.

Carson and I talked water quality, Duke energy and their coal ash pits, the work he does as riverkeeper, and his favorite spots on the river.

If you’ve got ideas for how you could help with the Torg Stories river movie, please let us know in the comments section. I also hope you’ll take the time to share the post via social media or by email if you know of those who would be interested.

I hope you enjoy this week’s conversation with French Broad Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson. Thanks for listening!

Check back or click around on the site for more updates on our French Broad River movie project.




Asheville, French Broad River, Hartwell Carson, Torg Stories, podcast, Mountaintrue

1,000 Miles for a Used Raft: Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway

The French Broad River runs right through where we live in Asheville, North Carolina and everywhere you go there are kayaks perched on top of automobiles. With daughters the ages seven and ten, my wife Megan and I thought we’d enjoy either tandem kayaks or maybe a raft. The typical tandem kayak in town went for around $800 and rafts like what I thought we’d need ranged from $2,500 to over $5,000.  Not knowing if we’d actually enjoy our time on the river (would it be too slow? too much of a hassle to get the boat in and out of the water and cars arranged at the appropriate geographical points) I thought I’d see if I could find anything used. There was almost nothing for sale. I took this to be a good sign. People were buying kayaks and rafts and liking them enough that they weren’t for sale. Check Craigslist for exercise equipment and a different story is told.

“I like the idea of us being together,” my wife Megan had said. And so we decided on a raft for the whole family and the best deal on a used one I could find was in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. This is about 470 miles from where we live. I’d vaguely heard of the town as one where the Appalachian Trail passed through.

Would I really drive seven hours each way for a used raft?

Turns out, I was willing to drive even farther than that. First I thought if we added The Skyline Drive in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, we could make a family trip out of it. Megan said she and her parents used to go on such trips as vacation. Now we wouldn’t be so crazy, going so far for a used raft. We were going on vacation!

The plan evolved and we decided we would also buy a tent and do our first camping as a family. Why not take our dog Indy too?  The following pictures show a little of how our pilgrimage went:



Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

loaded up and ready for take off


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destination #1: the nice folks at River Riders in Harper’s Ferry


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, River Riders

phase one of mission completed, raft purchased


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

ready for picnic dinner on the Skyline Drive


Not long after dinner, we saw our first bear. Actually we saw three of them, a mother and two cubs who’d climbed up a tree. We saw this from The Skyline Drive. There were several cars pulled off to the side of the road, and probably ten or so people pointing up into the trees. At this point, my youngest started keeping track of the wildlife we spotted.


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, wildlife, snakes, bears, deer, turkeys

My Youngest Kept Track of Our Wildlife Sightings


Not long after the first bear sighting, I hit one with our van. I was driving around a corner, my sight impaired from the sunset, when I could just make out a bear when it was only a few feet from our bumper. I hit the brakes and gently turned away from the bear as it rammed the front left of our car. With no shoulder to pull onto and because we were on a curve, we didn’t stop right away. The bear was not visible in the rearview mirror or the side mirrors. Looking back, it seemed to be gone, having run off into the woods. We stopped at the next pull off and inspected the car. There was a small scratch and the bumper was covered with bear slobber.


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Our campsite at The Meadows on the Skyline Drive


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, Bears

the first bears we saw


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

deer near our campsite


Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders

Now which way are the falls?



Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders

We made it!


Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders, Peaks of Otter

another good dinner spot: at Peaks of Otter Lodge off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Coming Soon:

Reports from our raft on The French Broad River