The French Broad River is a free-flowing river. The amount of water in the river bed is determined not by a dam, but by the amount of rain the region recieves. Water table level also has an effect on the river flows, as does the season of the year, in that the fully leafed out trees of summer absorb more rain water then the dormant trees of winter, early spring and fall.
What all this means for rafting is that the level of the river can vary. A lot. The French Broad is a big river (by Appalachian Mountain standards anyway) and can hold a lot of water. The river also chanelizes really well. What this means is that even when the level is on the low side we can still go rafting and it is still a great trip.
What it means for us as a professional outfitter is that we want to have a variety of boat options to fit the different water levels. And the different desires of our guests.
A raft with a guide is always available and is actually the way most people go down the river with us. Since the water level can vary we have several different raft sizes available. Basically, the higher the water the bigger the raft we want to use. The type, size, and number of rafts we take on the river is determined after everyone has arrived at Blue Heron for their trip.
On rare occasions, when the river level is just right, and there are folks who are up for it, we can offer self-guided rafts. Those rafters are still part of the guided trip and are given plenty of pre-launch instruction as well as on the water direction.
A duck is a single person, inflatable kayak. Unlike hard-plastic kayaks, ducks do not have a deck, so they are sort of a combination of raft and kayak. You do use a double bladed paddle though, and you are in the boat by yourself, but you are not on the trip by yourself.
Ducks are only an option up to a certain water level. If the water is too high ducks are not an option because the chances of swimming are too great and rescue becomes more dificult. Ducks are a fun option for those folks who maybe have done a bit of rafting before or are looking for a little more of an adventurous time on the river. Before getting on the water there will be ducky school and more instruction and help while on the river will be provided by the guides.
A typical raft trip with ducks included might look something like this: The river leader will be in the lead raft followed by a few ducks. Then another guided raft leading a few more ducks, and so on, with the last boat always being a guided raft. It is not uncommon for a group to split its members between rafts and ducks. That way everyone can give them a try. And there is always the option to get in a guided raft if the whole duck thing just isn't working out.
Ducks are available on a first come, first served basis and there is no extra charge.
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