Rivers have always fascinated me, as a young child I imagined constructing my own small ship and riding the Yadkin River straight to the ocean (child logic, and I was obsessed with the beach). To think what history these mesmerizing, powerful, and ancient bodies of water have witnessed and produced is amazing. North Carolina is home to one of the oldest rivers in the world and also two rivers that led early explorers to the banks of what would soon be America. It’s safe to say there is definetly something incredible about these ten rivers below.
1. French Broad River
The epic French Broad River winds and flows through the mountains of NC. This powerful river is a popular destination for whitewater rafting, tubing, and an occasional dip. The river is an example of an antecendence, meaning it or its ancestor existed before the Appalachian Mountains. Because of this, the French Broad is an ancient river that flows across and through the mountains rather than down. The legendary river even has its own river siren, known as the 'The French Broad Siren.'
2. Swannanoa River
The Swannanoa is a major tributary to the French Broad River. Spanning for 22 miles it flows entirely through Buncombe County. The river provides not only recreational use but drinking water to the Asheville Metropolitan area.
3. Cape Fear River
The 202 mile, blackwater river is a famous site for first explorers and today runs through the Metropolitan area of Wilmington. During the Colonial era, the river was a prime source of transportation into North Carolina. Today, it can be reached as far as Fayetteville through a series of locks and dams. It's popular for recreational activities, boating, fishing, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
4. The Dan River
The Dan River (or 'Dirty Dan' as we call it when planning a tubing trip) is a 214 mile river that flows through both NC and VA. As stated above, its a beloved destination for tubing during the summer months. The name, Dan River, was first recorded in 1728 on an expedition to explore the VA area. Unfortunately, in 2014, a coal and ash oil spill of up to 27 mil. gallons occurred in the Dan River near Eden and was the 3rd worst spill in the United States. The spill has been cause of much debate against Duke Energy and is a prime example of how we need to keep our natural resources clean and bountiful. The river is said to be 'under decent condition.'
5. Nantahala River
The Nantahala River is a 40-mile river that runs near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With class II-IV rapids, It's one of the most popular destinations for whitewater rafting in North Carolina. The upper run is extremely steep and extremely challenging, and attracts those who love the sport. Besides its extreme rapids, the more gentle areas of the river are popular with canoers, kayakers, and fisherman. Nantahala derives from Cherokee language and means 'land of the noon-day sun.'
6. Yadkin River
Spanning for 215 miles, the Yadkin River is one of the longest rivers in North Carolina and the second largest basin. You can follow the Yadkin all the way from the Blue Ridge through the Triad and down to Salisbury before it changes to the Pee Dee River. High Rock is the first and largest of Yadkin's chain lakes and Badin is the oldest. Badin has been called a 'bassmaster's paradise.' The Yadkin is popular for swimming (in the gentle areas) fishing and boating.
7. Roanoke River
The Roanoke River is considered one of the major rivers of the Southeastern US. Spanning for 410 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, the Roanoke River is an important piece of history. It was home to Native American tribes and the site of early Colonial settlements.
8. Catawba River
The Catawba River is named after the Catawba tribe of Native Americans that first settled on the banks and were identified as the Kawahcatawbas, "the people of the river." Today the river spans 220 miles through North Carolina and South Carolina.
9. New River
The New River is one of the oldest rivers in North America and considered by geologist to be one of the oldest rivers in the world. The 320 mile river forms in Ashe County and flows through Southwestern Virginia and on to West Virginia.
10. Neuse River
Rising in the Piedmont and emptying into the Pamlico Sound near New Bern, this 275 mile river is the longest river contained in North Carolina. The Neuse's history dates back thousands of years before Europeans arrived in which indigenous people inhabited the area. Artifacts found along the banks trace it back to prehistoric Native settlements. The Neuse is also one of the three oldest surviving English given names, named after the Neusiok tribe in which early Raleigh expeditions made contact.