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Lazy River Outfitters to offer French Broad floats

HORSE SHOE — Matt Evans thinks river tourism is on the rise in Henderson County. By summertime he will have the only Henderson County-based canoe and kayaking business to take advantage of it.

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The Zoning Board of Adjustment last month authorized a special-use permit to Evans and his wife, Leslie, to open Lazy Otter Outfitters on Banner Farm Road a few hundred yards north of U.S. 64.
“I’ve been driving by the property and wondering why no one was doing this,” Evans told the zoning board. “This site is so ideally situated. We’ve spent several months trying to find a good reason why it wouldn’t work and we couldn’t find one.”
So the couple bought the property. Next they will build a boat ramp to gain access to the river and then buy kayaks and tubes and a 15-passenger van to haul paddlers up the river.
“We’re looking at starting small and growing with demand,” he said. “We’re not planning on having a huge operation like you see up in Asheville.”
The couple plans to offer two options for now. The first put-in would be at the U.S. 64 bridge, where the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is building a put-in site in a partnership with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Henderson County. From the Banner Farm Road river crossing to the U.S. 64 is not far as the crow flies but it’s between those two points that the French Broad makes its famous horse shoe bend.
For now the next nearest public access upstream would be at Blantyre. Riverbend plans a ramp between those two sites, off Etowah School Road.
“There could be four or more put-ins,” Evans said. He projected a cost of $20 for a tube float and $40-45 to rent a kayak or canoe. The French Broad through Henderson County is fairly slow and flat. Evans estimates the Blantyre option would give paddlers about a four-hour ride while the U.S. 64 put-in would be about a two-hour trip.
“One of the things we really like about that river is it’s really not crowded because there’s so little access to it right now,” he said.
There’s an “informal” put-in and takeout at N.C. 191, Evans said. The next public ramp downstream from Horse Shoe is at Westfeldt Park on Ferncliff Park Drive. (One other option would be to take a left at the Mills River and paddle upstream to Mills River Town Park, which had a new boat ramp.) The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. plans to develop boat access at its property west of Westfeldt Park.
Evans has received permits from Henderson County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the ramp. He hopes to be open by Memorial Day weekend.