The Sierra Nevada Express makes it easy to paddle and visit the Sierra Nevada Mill River brewery

Sierra Nevada Express

Special note!  Hours and services at the Sierra Nevada Brewery may vary due to the pandemic, and separate reservations there may be required. You are responsible for making any necessary arrangements at the brewery! Typically, you can expect to be taking out of the river and ready for the 2-minute drive to the brewery about 3 to 3.5 hours after the scheduled start time of the Sierra Nevada Express. Even if Sierra Nevada is closed or unavailable, you are still welcome to book your river trip on the Sierra Nevada Express. The take-out at Westfeldt Park is also close to several other great breweries (Blue Ghost, Burning Blush, Mills RIver Brewing and Bold Rock Cidery, for example), and you will also be a bit closer to Asheville if you're heading back that direction.

 

 

The Sierra Nevada Express makes it easy to cap off a float on the French Broad with a pint of your favorite Sierra Nevada brew - and right from the source! 

 

By popular demand, Lazy Otter Outfitters is offering special trips that will make it easy to enjoy Sierra Nevada's world-class Mills River brewery and tap room after your paddle adventure! Explore seven miles of the French Broad River starting and ending at Westfeldt Park. This trip takes most people two-and-a-half to three hours on the water.

 

We'll pick you up at Westfeldt Park near the Asheville Airport for the 15-minute drive to Lazy Otter HQ on the banks of the French Broad in Horse Shoe. Your kayaks or canoes will be lined up and ready to go for the seven-mile paddle back to Westfeldt, which is just down the road from Sierra Nevada. We'll meet you there to collect your boats, and it will take you less than five minutes to drive up the hill to the brewery. 

Price: $45 per person in a Nomad solo kayak, Gemini tandem kayak, or canoe. $50 per person in a Juntos solo kayak or on a paddle board. Upgraded kayak seat pads are $5 each.

 

Meeting Location:  Westfeldt Park

 

7 mile route.jpg

Sierra Nevada Express FAQ:

  • How long will my trip take? Will we be given a deadline? We want you to be able to relax and go at your own pace, so most often we do not set deadlines or set pickup times, and instead use tracking devices to know when to come and pick you up with a minimum of "waiting around" for you. While everyone goes at their own pace, you should expect the Sierra Nevada Express trip to take 2.5-3 hours. While most of our scheduled trips are in the morning, when we add trips in the afternoon there is a deadline for completion of all trips of 5 p.m., with a late fee of $3 for every 5 minutes past 5 p.m. that you arrive.

  • Who can participate?  The minimum age to pilot a solo kayak is 13. An adult over the age of 18 must accompany any group of minors. Children ages 6 to 12 may ride as a passenger in a canoe or tandem kayak with an adult, but all children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket at all times, and all participants of any age must be able to swim. A parent or guardian must sign a waiver for anyone under the age of 18 (not just the adult who brings the minor on the trip).

  • How will we get to Sierra Nevada and what is included?  Since we picked you up at the take-out earlier, your car is waiting for you when you get off the river. We'll just be there to take your boats back from you. Additional transportation and purchases at the brewery are not included in the trip cost.

General FAQ:

  • I'm a beginner, or not confident paddling. Will I be able to do it?  We have many novice paddlers who enjoy this section of the river, but keep in mind that there obstacles, primarily downed trees, that you'll need to avoid and that could tip you over and also that if you need help, it may take a couple of hours to get it to you because of the remote nature of the river. Beginners should paddle with a more experienced group, and if you are not confident that you would be able to get yourself back into an overturned kayak or swim to safety, you should wait until you have more experience. Please take a look at our New Paddler page.

  • How often do trips run?  You can see all the available times and make reservations here.

  • Do I need reservations? Yes, to ensure equipment and shuttle availability for everyone and to keep our shuttles on schedule we require reservations. You can make reservations online, through your mobile device, or by calling our office. Please be sure to be 15 minutes early for your trip - if you're late it may be difficult to accommodate you.

  • What is the cancellation policy?  Trips must be paid for at time of booking, but cancellations with more than 24 hours notice will receive a full refund. That will give you a chance to check to make sure you're comfortable with the weather forecast, because trips run rain or shine (unless we cancel a trip for safety or other reasons, in which case you'll also get a refund). If you decide for weather-related or other reasons with less than 24-hours notice that you would rather go at another time we can generally accommodate that on a space-available basis. No-shows with no notice will not be refunded or rescheduled.

  • Is there a group discount? Yes, groups of eight or more people on a single reservation and paying with a single credit card are eligible for a discount of 10 percent off the total cost of their booking. Please reserve by phone (828-756-1386) to make a group reservation.

  • Do I have to wear a life jacket?  Yes. N.C. law requires the use of a PFD by anyone under the age of 13 on the water. While PFDs are legally optional but highly recommended for all other participants, Lazy Otter requires they be worn and they are included with your rental. By law PFDs must be accessible to everyone in a kayak, canoe or SUP (and worn at all times by anyone under 13).

  • What should I wear?  It's your call, but expect to get wet (even if you're going to try not to!). Quick-dry materials are usually preferable to cotton, and you should wear sandals or water shoes to protect your feet (not flip-flops). A change of clothes for afterwards is nice too.

  • Is alcohol allowed? N.C. law allows for alcohol consumption on public waterways, but public intoxication, underage consumption, boating while impaired and littering are all illegal and unacceptable and the use of alcohol can seriously impair a person's judgement and ability to manage risks. Soft-sided coolers are welcome on the river but no glass containers and no styrofoam. Please be sure all your trash makes it off the river (coolers are a good place to store empties!).

  • What is the river like?  It's great for calm-water paddling and tubing. While conditions will vary based on the weather and river level, our section of the river is deep enough that you will rarely have to "scoot" yourself on your tube or boat or run aground. There are some obstacles such as downed trees in the water, and low water levels will expose more hazards. Beginners should always paddle with someone experienced, and everyone should be comfortable controlling his or her boat! Always be sure to paddle well clear of any obstructions for safety's sake. Please respect all private property rights. You can view our photo tour of the Horse Shoe Bend section of the river to get an idea, and also get some tips about what kind of trip you might most enjoy.

  • Is the trip dangerous? All water-based recreation should be considered hazardous. However, this stretch of the French Broad is slow-moving and flat, so with safety precautions and awareness of your surroundings you should have a safe and fun time.

  • Can I paddle by myself? Yes, PROVIDED you are an experienced paddler and are confident you would be able to self-rescue if you run into trouble. Unless BOTH things are true, you must paddle with other people.

  • Are dogs allowed? Sorry, no pets are allowed on our trips. If you arrive with a pet the pet will not be allowed to join you, and you will not be allowed to leave the pet in your car on our property because of the risk of heat exposure.

  • What should I do if I have a problem on the river?  In case of an emergency, call for help from 9-1-1 as soon as possible. We send a small cell phone/tracking device with each group in case of an emergency, and you may choose to bring your cell phone with you. You can bring your own waterproof case for your phone or buy one from us, but in any case you are always responsible for protecting your personal property. In the event of a non-emergency such as a popped tube, the best thing to do is continue down the river as best you can if it is safe. Our tubes are heavy-duty so you should be able to  avoid any puncture hazards, and we send a spare tube along with every group. The tubes also include a safety chamber and inflated back rest so you should still be able to use them to float and swim your way down the river if necessary. If you are unable to continue down the river safely but are not experiencing an emergency, alert our staff by phone or a message from a fellow floater and we will try to help you as soon as possible.

  • What should I do if a storm hits?  We cancel or postpone trips during lightning storms or when storms are likely, but mountain weather can be unpredictable. If a storm arises while you are tubing, avoid being near the tallest objects where lightning is most likely to strike, which may mean staying on the water. If you are on one of the longer paddling runs and can get to a bridge, that can be a safe place to take shelter. The NOAA has more information about lightening safety.