The French Broad is born in western North Carolina out of a temperate rain forest localized around Rosman, North Carolina. The warm moist air which consistently moves in a northeasternly direction from the Gulf of Mexico is pushed higher up into the cooler altitudes as it becomes trapped between mountain ranges and funnelled toward Rosman. When it nears Rosman, the air mass has cooled to the extent where it can no longer hold the moisture that it has carried and dumps it on the eastern slopes of the mountains soon after crossing into Transylvania county. The resulting rain begins the formation of the French Broad River. Flowing for 210 miles through western North Carolina northward into Tennessee, it joins the Holston River outside of Knoxville to create the famous Tennessee River. On the way, it boasts of two sizable tributaries: the Pigeon and Nolichucky Rivers.
Although at first glance it appears unprepossessing, the French Broad river has a score of fascinating distinctions. It is so old as to be practically devoid of fossils. Only the Nile and, ironically, the New river predate it. Interestingly, the New river crosses into North Carolina on the other side of the Eastern Continental divide. So North Carolina has the distinction of having both the second and third oldest rivers in the world within its borders. The French Broad is older than the mountains in which it now finds itself. It existed before a huge landmass crashed into the eastern shores of the main body of land that is now North America. When the collison took place, over thousands of years in duration and millions of years ago, the land slowly buckled and began the formation of the Appalachian Chain. As the mountains gained height, the river kept flowing, cutting into and through them as they rose. When the French Broad river was young, so was the world.
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