The French Broad River Basin is characterized by a mountainous topography. The basin is 2,809 square miles large (11% of the state) and contains the second largest number of stream miles - 4,113 miles. Water resources in this river basin support recreational-based businesses (whitewater rafting, canoeing, and trout fishing). Many streams are classified as High Quality or Outstanding Resource Waters because of the abundant trout populations.
Over half of the basin is forested, with agricultural activities occuring primarily in the river valleys. Cultivated land area is decreasing in this basin while urban lands are increasing. Major industries involve agriculture (dairy, livestock, apples, and Christmas trees), mining and tourism.
The area that comprises the French Broad River Basin consists of nine counties: Avery, Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Transylvania, and Yancey. Approximately five percent of the state's population, or 357,932 people, live in this river basin.
The overall quality of the water in the French Broad River Basin is good, although approximately 11% or 400 miles are impaired by sediment, fecal coliform bacteria, toxic substances, and turbidity. The sources of these pollutants are from agriculture, construction, urban development, point source discharges, septic systems, and forestry activities.