Perfect Fall Rafting at Blue Heron Whitewater
Posted on 8.31.12
Story by LEAH SHAPIRO (the happy rafter center in photo below) | Photos from BLUE HERON WHITEWATER
According to Sandy Melton, co-owner of Blue Heron Whitewater, the exceptionally enjoyable rafting that takes place during the month of September is an “unintentionally well-kept secret.” Brisk mornings followed by warm afternoon breezes with little of August’s humidity are ideal for taking on class II to IV rapids or gently floating downstream.
“Offering custom service doesn’t scare us,” says Sandy with a smile. The guides at Blue Heron Whitewater offer half and full day rafting trips with personalized attention, guest-oriented service, and years of experience having fun on the French Broad River.
Sandy, Fritz Johnson, and Ciro Peña started their whitewater rafting company with a contagious passion for the outdoors and strong sense of camaraderie. “We help people access a part of their surroundings that they couldn’t easily do on their own,” explains Sandy. “From gear to expertise to transportation.” Western North Carolina is known for its beautiful weather and clear visibility beginning in September and outrageous fall colors in October, as you can see in the picture above. Instead of viewing mountains by car, float between them, using all your senses. You can even swim a little at designated areas along the way.
With less traffic on the river than in the summer, fall months bring a more relaxed pace. The versatility of the company, on this naturally-flowing river, ensures that large parties (like corporate groups or family reunions) can be accommodated, whether it be with scheduling with a wide range of ages. While the minimum age for the half day and day-long trips is eight years old, children as young as four can enjoy a five-mile calm water float. When water levels permit, the more adventurous paddlers can choose to go solo in a “ducky,” an inflatable kayak, and people who want to stick together can be seated in a smaller or larger guided raft, which fit four to six.
Although there is a daily core crew of about eight, Blue Heron’s “expandable staff” allows up to 30 experienced guides to assist in larger ventures. These folks love getting on the river, Sandy explains. “They support what we’re doing and want the river to remain a part of their lives.”
The five-mile half-day trip, with a route through Madison County Mountains, is a great option as it suits most abilities. Choose the half-day with a fresh lunch provided and fix your own sandwich deli-style, any way you want it. “We are responsible stewards trying to minimize our impact along the river,” says Sandy who has been rafting on the French Broad since the ’80s. The full-day trip is eight miles and includes three more rapids (including a thrilling class IV) than the half-day does.
Even if the fall weather looks a little chilly, Blue Heron always offers wet suits, neoprene socks, paddling jackets, and fleece shirts free of charge. The enthusiastic guides want to extend your comfort range and make sure you have the best experience possible.
As the closest whitewater rafting company to Asheville, Blue Heron is a convenient attraction March through October. When weather and water levels cooperate, and folks want to go, they have been known to do trips in the off season as well. Come engage with nature and witness firsthand the beauty of fall in the mountains.
Blue Heron Whitewater is located at 35 Little Pine Road in Marshall. For more information call 888.H20.RAFT (888.426.7238) or reserve online at blueheronwhitewater.com.