The French Broad River flows from North Carolina, just west of the Continental Divide, into Tennessee. The headwaters are located in the very wet Appalachian temperate rainforest. Warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico is funneled between mountain ranges until the air grows too cold to hold the moisture and the rain falls on these slopes, serving as the original source of the river. The town nearest its watery birthplace, Rosman, gets nearly 80” of rain every year, with a record of 129”, enough to provide a healthy start for this wide river that flows through Asheville.
It is one of the oldest rivers in the world, older than the dinosaurs, so old that it actually has very few fossils. It was flowing before North America and Africa crashed into each other 300 million years ago, leading to the formation of the Appalachians. If it were a younger river, it would have formed on one side of the range or the other. Instead, its ancient history is revealed because it cuts through the mountains.
I shot this surreal scene of an autumn forest along the banks of the French Broad near downtown Asheville. There is a pinkish sky mirrored in the slowly flowing water, the trees suspended between with their own palette of colors. Autumn has come down from the bare mountaintops, and now largely remains in and around lower elevations like Asheville. I enjoy this ribbon of color wrapped along the edge of the river, trying to imagine the millions of seasons that have been reflected in these wide waters.