-- Last Updated: Dec-25-13 10:31 AM EST --
in fact, the only part of the French Broad I have done is the popular, so-called Section 9 from Barnard, NC to Hot Springs, NC.
The whole stretch can be paddled, but there are some very significant obstacles.
The Sections of the French Broad in North Carolina were assigned numerical names by Bob Benner in his classic book "Carolina Whitewater". Sections 1 through 5 are upstream of Asheville.
Section 6 begins at the North Carolina Electric Power dam (a 10 foot high dam) just north of Asheville. The Metro sewage treatment plant dumps in just below the put-in. Water quality below is so-so at best. There are some Class II rapids and at least one Class III on this 6.5 mile section. You can read more about it here: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/1075/
The next 11.5 miles (Section 7) down to Marshall is Class I-II but terminates at another mandatory portage of around 400 yards around an 8 foot dam. Section 8 is 6.5 miles long down to Barnard, but after the first 1.5 miles there is another mandatory portage of about 200 yards around a 25 foot dam. Below that there are 5 miles of Class I-II rapids.
Section 9 is the popular whitewater section of the French Broad from Barnard to Hot Springs (7.5 miles). It has a number of significant Class III rapids and one Class IV just above Hot Springs. You can read about it here: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/1074/
Trying to run this section in a loaded boat and portaging around all the Class III-IV rapids would make for an exhausting day (maybe a couple of exhausting days) so if you don't have significant whitewater experience I would recommend you stay off this section.
Below Hot Springs the river moderates a good bit. Section 10 is the 13 mile stretch that begins at Hot Springs and crosses into Tennessee ending at the Highway 25/70 bridge. This section and the next 5 mile stretch down to Del Rio Tennessee are briefly described here: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/1750/ There are some Class II-III 4 foot vertical ledges on this stretch.
The stretch from Del Rio to Bridgeport is generally Class II and is described here: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/3567/ The first reasonable access point on Douglas Lake is about 6 miles downstream of Bridgeport.
To try to paddle this whole stretch would be about a 70 mile run. To try to do it as a continuous downriver trip would require paddling loaded canoes/kayaks and because of the fairly numerous and daunting portages required on Section 9 and around the dams would take at least 10 days or so for normal humans. Finding legal spots to camp overnight might also be an issue but I really can't speak from experience here. You should also be aware that the French Broad has a huge watershed and can become too high to paddle safely pretty much any time of year, and could certainly go from a reasonable to a suicidal level during the course of a week long, or longer, trip.
I would suggest you try some day trips in the stretches from Hot Springs down to Bridgeport, or down to the lake.
1 Canoe/Kayak Trailer
Heel and Pegpads™