Blue Heron Whitewater is in Madison County, NC, the last county the French Broad River runs through before flowing into Tennessee. The small towns of Hot Springs, Marshall, and Mars Hill offer the intimacy of a slower pace and rural landscapes. Activities focus on the outdoors, with hiking, biking, horseback riding and, of course, rafting. The arts are alive and well here, too.
Only 22 miles away from Blue Heron Whitewater is downtown Asheville, which is a thriving, eclectic, cultural hub.
Here are a few of our favorite local places:
Marshall is the county seat, and is becoming a vibrant community with an emphasis on art and music. The old high school on the island has been renovated into artist studio spaces and appropriately named Marshall High Studios. Also on the island is a picnic area and walking path. Marshall is the home of Madison County Arts Council, which highlights the talents of local artists and musicians, across a range of genres, and hosts entertainers from around the globe.
Visit Zumas cafe for good coffee, salads and wraps, open for breakfast and lunch. Open late on Thursdays, they offer a dinner menu and host a Bluegrass Jam. Get there early if you want a table. Renown studio fiddler Bobby Hicks has made Marshall his home, and Zumas on Thursdays his venue.
Penlands Department Store is an authentic small town store, offering any style of Carhart clothing you could want, Redwing boots, an assortment of seasonal produce and like-home canned goodies. Books written by Madison County authors are made available at Penlands. For a sampling of the artistic talent in this county make time to browse the new shop Flow.
A great place to stock up for cooking your own meals while camping or cabin renting is the Madison Natural Foods grocery. They carry the locally made organic Roots hummus that we serve on our lunch trips.
Madison County Farmers and Artisan's Market is worth a stop for locally produced farmstead cheeses, eggs and veggies, baked goods, etc. Saturday mornings in Mars Hill.
The town of Hot Springs is where our Full Day rafting trips take off the river.
For information about hikes in the area, and to gear up stop in at Bluff Mountain Outfitters.
The Hot Springs Resort and Spa has cabins to rent, campground sites with river frontage, and tubs for soaking in the natural warm mineral waters for which the town is named.
Broadwing Farm, and Spring Brook Cottages also rent cabins near town.
For a pampered experience check in to the Mountain Magnolia Inn.
The Artisun Gallery features creative works of local artists.
Tasty meals are served at The Iron Horse Station and Smoky Mountain Diner.
For more lodging suggestions see our lodging page.
And then there is Asheville…
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries two wealthy families, Vanderbilt and Grove, made their marks on Asheville. They attracted skilled artisans, craftsmen and botanists for elaborate undertakings of the Biltmore House and the Grove Arcade. Many of those talented folks stayed, and passed down their traditions to the generations that followed. Asheville is a vibrant, eclectic town, with many fabulous restaurants and a plethora of cultural happenings. The city is surrounded by mountains, and all the fun things to do outside. A good place to start your online exploration of Asheville is the Explore Asheville website. Another good resource is the Romantic Asheville website.
For live music venues check out Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, The Orange Peel, and Isis Music Hall.
South of Asheville
The North Carolina Arboretum is a 434 acre public garden located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest.
Dupont State Forest is a good place for hiking to scenic waterfalls.
Chimney Rock State Park is about an hour from us. It offers some incredible hikes, and vistas overlooking Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.
The French Broad River connects four mountain counties in western North Carolina. At the upper end, near Brevard the folks at Headwater Outfitters provide a canoe rental service and well-stocked outdoor gear shop. In the middle at Asheville our friends at Asheville Outdoor Center offer a variety of activities on and by the river, and Blue Heron Whitewater helps you access the whitewater stretch, before the French Broad River flows out of the mountains, on its way to Tennessee and beyond.
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Blue Heron Whitewater is operating under permit by the USDA Forest Service. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in it's programs on basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.
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