Horse Shoe Bend Natural Sculpture Garden
It’s certainly not an original insight to compare the many beautiful vistas and abundant scenery of the southern Appalachians to great art, but I do think I’m coming up with something new here when I introduce you to one of my very favorite places as the “Horse Shoe Bend Natural Sculpture Garden.”
“The fallen timbers that line the edges of the Horse Shoe Bend offer little physical challenge even to beginning kayakers, but what they do offer is a new way of seeing some of the things around us, shaped by the forces of water, wind and time."
The Horse Shoe Bend is the four miles of the French Broad River above Lazy Otter Outfitters, and when we started the business in 2016 we dubbed the whole stretch through Henderson County as the “Undiscovered French Broad” because it was so little traveled compared to the bustling and (over?)crowded section through Asheville. Part of the reason it was infrequently paddled was a lack of public access points, a problem we’re proud to have helped solve at Lazy Otter.
But another reason was a local reputation for being tough to navigate because of “all the obstacles in the river.” It wasn’t an unfounded feeling - back in the 1870s it required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the then-massive sum of around $50,000 to undertake the effort to clear the French Broad of centuries worth of fallen trees, stumps and other debris
and deepen its channel for the ill-fated Mountain Lily riverboat line that briefly plied these waters near the end of that century.
But that was a long time ago, and when we paddled the Bend ourselves to make sure a kayak outfitter would be viable there, it was clear that that reputation had long outlived reality. Obviously conditions can change and caution is always warranted, but with flat water and gentle currents we’ve sent many hundreds of paddlers of all skill levels safely down the Horse Shoe Bend, which is notable these days mostly for its remote, building-and-road-free scenery that’s getting much harder to find on the French Broad in the 21st century.
Today there are still “obstacles” in the river, but really, that’s a matter of perspective. The fallen timbers that line the edges of the Horse Shoe Bend offer little physical challenge even to beginning kayakers, but what they do offer is a new way of seeing some of the things around us, shaped by the forces of water, wind and time. The graceful extension of a shore-bound tree trunk straight out over the water might remind one person of a leaping dancer’s leg, while a curving tree branch might seem to another to trace a map of the Horse Shoe Bend of the river itself.
Or maybe to you they’ll just look like cool logs, which is pretty great too since that’s often where you’ll spot the sunbathing turtles, the perching herons or even the elusive river otters themselves. No matter what you see, you’ll be experiencing a unique stretch of of one of the world’s oldest rivers with your own eyes, and so in a way that no one else has ever experienced it before.
How to Find It
Lazy Otter Outfitters offers kayak, canoe, and "adventure tubing" trips on the Horse Shoe Bend during the paddling season. Visit our web site for details on all our trips, and to book online.
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/gPpweZeaz5C2
Web site: https://www.lazyotteroutfitters.com