Madison County – Railroads brought goods and people to the rugged mountainous areas of Western North Carolina. Sometimes where rails and roads met, a small town would spring up. Not enough for the actual incorporation of a town, but enough for the area to be named and a destination for locals before automobiles and good roads made travel easy.
Nestled on the French Broad River in Madison County is one of those places. According to the North Carolina Gazetteer (second edition), the Barnard community, (not to be confused with Barnardsville in Buncombe) was named for Job Barnard. The remote area dates back to 1830. At an elevation of 1,534, Barnard settled in the area by 1794 and was one of Madison County’s early settlers. The old postal station (which is still standing) was named Barnard Station.
This remote area is home to one of only four bridges that connects the west side of the county to the east side, as the French Broad River divides it. It is also home to one of the few facilities listed on Madison County’s Parks & Rec page. The Barnard Park is a place to rent kayaks and there is also a walking loop, concrete boat ramps, picnic tables and a large field for activities. Fishing, rafting or paddle sports areas are allowed from this county-owned property along the French Broad.
Also, according to a RiverLink webpage, the county “acquired a conservation easement on 10 acres of forested river frontage and upland habitat in Madison County, near Barnard, NC. The protected land is adjacent to an organic farm and orchard owned by the landowner, and the easement includes a French Broad River Paddle Trail campsite complete with a pavilion, grassy areas for setting up a tent, and a composting toilet for use by campers.”
The page goes on to say, “The protected property has high conservation value, and serves an important role in protecting water quality in both the French Broad River and Big Pine Creek (a portion of which runs through the property). Both waterways are designated as Class “C” waters, which m eans that they are protected for uses such as secondary recreation, fishing, wildlife, fish consumption, aquatic life, maintenance of biological integrity, and agriculture.” The property is located on the west side of the river.
To learn more about the park facilities and how to rent kayaks, contact the Madison County Parks & Rec Department at 828-649-3635.