The Transylvania Times -

Sweepers and Strainers - Oh My! - Brevard, NC


May 1, 2017

Courtesy photo

David Whitmire in the French Broad River taking out some of these dangerous sweepers and strainers. This work is hard, but Whitmire enjoys keeping the river open for everyone to use.

Last weekend's rain was no record breaker, no drought breaker and actually pretty average. Well, average compared to average years. Last year was not an average weather year. Last weekend's rain was a soaking rain, something we have not seen much this past year. Something else we hadn't seen a whole lot of in a while was trees coming down on the rivers. With the soaking rains, especially after long dry spells, which loosens the soil, we have seen and had reports of a few trees crossing the French Broad and tributaries after last weekend's weather. Even though most leaves on the trees weren't out fully, wind played its role in bringing down these trees as well. One thing is for sure it's great to see some water back in these streams, especially as we head into the growing season.

River folks, paddlers, fisherman, tubers and swimmers are also hitting the water. Catching higher water flows can make for some of the better paddling and fishing experiences. Whether on small streams, whitewater or quiet water rivers, downed trees can be a hazard. When a tree falls across a stream it is often referred to as a sweeper or a strainers. The term "wood" is often used to describe these as well. Sweepers are just above the surface, allowing boats to pass under, but not you. Strainers are just that: strainers. People, gear and boats are subject to the force of water and the structure of the tree. The following simple precautions will help you stay out of these strainers and help you be prepared if you get in one:

•Paddlers and tubers, know your skills, know the river, know the river level and match those up. On any river at anytime you can encounter downed trees. These must be recognized with enough time to adjust the route or prepare for a portage around the tree. Running any streams blind, which means limited sight distance, can increase your chances of being in a strainer.

•Don't be a floater. It's nice to kick back and float the French Broad, but it's also nice to make your boat or tube go where you want, so be in control.

•Lean downstream or into any obstacle if you hit them sideways in your boat.

•Never let your boat get to the strainer; always stop well above and portage.

•Always wear your Personal Flotation Device.

•Fishermen, if you're boating, see the above list. Jon Boats, fishing rafts and kayaks all fall into the paddler list. For fisherman and swimmers, awareness and caution is needed if you are in the water above a downed tree. One slip or a misjudgment in current or depth of the river can put you right into a strainer. Fish or swim below these obstructions when near them instead of upstream.

•Anyone washed into a strainer as a swimmer should always try to climb up on the tree and not let the water push you in under or through any part of the tree.

•Again, if you're floating toward a strainer swim away aggressively.

With the reports of the new strainers on the French Broad, we at Headwaters Outfitters began the task of removing them on Wednesday so our daily river trips can run again. Each tree can be a challenge, some much bigger than others. I want to thank Hub Powell for helping us remove the tree in Rosman and Mayor Brian Shelton for his support. The Transylvania French Broad Stewards, Soil and Water and county commissioners all play key parts in keeping our streams open throughout the county.

It's that time of year to get back out on our steams and enjoy the flowing water, knowing hazards and how to handle them is part of the adventure. For river conditions, call Headwaters Outfitters (828) 877-3106 or visit our website at or find us on Facebook. Also, follow the Transylvania French Broad River Stewards on Facebook for river condition updates. Listed below is the list of trees reported and their status as of this article date.

Courtesy photo

Canoes can be the best way to lead a river clean up, volunteers can carry chainsaws, trash they pick up and food and water.

•North Fork Gorge-Vortex Rapid, wood has shifted causing bigger hazard.

•French Broad River – Rosman just above the U.S. 178 bridge, tree removed.

•French Broad River – Cherryfield Creek area, 0.5 mile below Whitmire Bridge. Removal in progress, tree all the way across the river.

•French Broad River – Below Hap Simpson, 0.25 miles down Wilson Road. Tree reported all the way across the river.

Whitmire is the owner of Headwaters Outfitters. He is actively involved in local conservation efforts and leads the French Broad River Clean Up. This year's river clean up is May 20.

Visit to learn more.


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019