The French Broad river winds it way through town and while visiting you may cross it daily as you travel the city. The city has dozens of rafting, canoeing and tubing trips available, including a 67 mile “blueway” paddle route. I look forward to taking many of these trips in the future when the kid is older, but for now we enjoyed some of the parks along the river.
One of the most scenic drives in the area is traveling north on the Old Marshall Highway from town up to the Marshall historic downtown. The drive is beautiful, especially during the fall colors, but might be hard with the rambunctious kids. Combine the drive with two conveniently located parks to burn energy.
From downtown, head north on highway 26 and hop off at the Woodfin exit. Follow Elk Mountain road until you hit highway 251 (Old Marshall Highway) and head north. Our first stop is The Ledges Whitewater Park.
The Ledges is absolutely beautiful location for being a small park. The river pans out a wide channel with plenty of boulders in the river, giving rise to the name “Ledges” as the river steps down each boulder. The parking lot holds around 20 cars, but i have always arrived with less than 5. You can hop out and enjoy the picnic tables and the view. If the kids want more of an adventure, there are well worn walking paths that go a few hundred feet in both directions. Walk down a trail and find yourself a private spot for the family to enjoy splashing. Spectacular photo opportunities while the kids play.
Note – The current is rather strong in the area. Shallow water will sweep you off your feet, this is not a swimming location. Splash on the edge and hold your children’s hands.
When finished, head north on the highway and follow the river to Walnut Island River Park approximately 5 miles north. The river widens here and you will often see a few groups fishing in the shallows. The park has a large flat picnic area, room to play catch and settle down for a quiet picnic. The river has a section that splits off that the kids can splash in with less worries. I am told the park can flood in the spring thaw but it is very rare. We were lucky enough to sit down and watch a long train on the far side of the river while we enjoyed the moment.
The next segment of the drive is one you will remember. The road winds along the river on your left, while you follow the valley around the curves. Each curve opens up a new view, as you are sometimes looking down at the river, other times looking up at the rock walls that frame your view. The historic downtown in Marshall is only 7 miles away, but take your time and enjoy the trip. Once you arrive in Marshall, hop out and walk the small strip. I had a baby ready for naptime so i currently don’t have a recommendation for the location. When done with the trip, you can take the same way back or travel out to highway 25 and arrive back in downtown Asheville in 30 minutes.