Monday, February 24, 2014

Episode 202 (2-24-14): "Cripple Creek"--On Banjo by Stewart Scales and On Virginia's Water-quality Agenda

Click to listen to episode (3:03)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 24, 2014.

This week, we feature a popular traditional tune whose name may come from a southwestern Virginia stream.  Have a listen for about 40 seconds.


You’ve been listening to part of “Cripple Creek,” in a banjo version by Stewart Scales, a native of Wise County, Virginia.  Since the early 1900s, many versions of this tune have been recorded, and countless other versions played at festivals and at informal gatherings.  The origin of the tune is subject to debate, but the source may have been Virginia’s Cripple Creek, a New River tributary that flows through Wythe County, with headwaters in Smyth and Grayson counties.  “Goin’ up Cripple Creek to have some fun” is a line commonly sung to this old-time tune; but for the past several years, Virginia water scientists have been going up and down Cripple Creek to study the problem of bacteria that exceed water-quality standards.  While most Virginia streams aren’t connected to a historic tune, many share with Cripple Creek this modern problem of water-quality impairments that require an in-depth study and improvement plan, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for this week’s music, and let’s end with about 15 more seconds of Mr. Scales’ fine banjo goin’ up and down along “Cripple Creek.”


For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 2/24/14]

Goin’ up Cripple Creek: February 22, 2014, view looking upstream near the creek’s confluence with the New River in Wythe County, Virginia.

Goin’ down Cripple Creek: July 22, 2013, view looking downstream between Cedar Springs and Speedwell in Wythe County, Virginia.  Photo courtesy of Patrick Lizon, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Cripple Creek watershed in Grayson, Smyth, and Wythe counties in Virginia, with colors showing impaired, segments of the watershed, that is, segments that do not meet water-quality standards.  From Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Development for Cripple Creek,” October 2009, page 27.

Acknowledgments: This week’s music was recorded for Virginia Water Radio on February 11, 2014, by Stewart Scales; used with permission.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Information on the tune “Cripple Creek” was taken from “The Traditional Tune Archive,” formerly known as “The Fiddler’s Companion,” by Andrew Kuntz and Valerio Pelliccioni, online at  The “Cripple Creek” entry is at

Information on Virginia’s Cripple Creek, including the map above, was taken from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality report, “Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Development for Cripple Creek,” October 2009, accessed online at; and from the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice about the February 11, 2014, meeting on the TMDL Improvement Plan for Cripple Creek, online at

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