George Ladshaw, Accidental Hero to Kayakers

Part of Ladshaw’s initial plan. Image from American Whitewater.

On December 12, 1906, George Ladshaw submitted a survey of the Green River basin in Henderson and Polk counties, proposing dams and hydroelectric power plants along the waterway.

His report on the “Available Power and Cost of Development” would have destroyed the riverbed and natural flow of the Green River, which today is legendary among kayakers for its exciting slides and drops. Other parts of the river are popular for tubing, canoeing and kayaking for beginners.

A postcard of the Green River. Image from the Buncombe County Public Library.The most treacherous section of the Green, called the Narrows, consists of a series of Class V rapids with names such as “Go Left and Die,” “Gorilla” and “Sunshine,” that challenge even the most seasoned kayakers. Since 1996, Saluda has been home to "The Green Race," a world-class kayak race on the Narrows attracting participants and thrill-seekers from around the globe.

Devotees of the Green River rapids have become aware of the so-called Ladshaw Plan, possibly because of an archival collection of documents related to speculation lands digitized by UNC-Asheville. Today kayakers celebrate the great near miss of having never known the precipitous rapids of the Green River by recognizing December 12 as Ladshaw Day.

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