Friday, October 2, 2015

Episode 284 (10-5-15): Taking the Forks in Waterways "Roads," with Appreciation to Yogi Berra

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:51)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-2-15.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 5, 2015.

SOUND – ~ 5 seconds – Yogi Berra voice - Audio re-recording from video produced by St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

Yogi Berra, the great New York Yankees catcher who died on September 22, 2015, is legendary for his baseball accomplishments, his honesty and integrity, and—not least—his odd but insightful sayings known as Yogi-isms.   He’s not known for any water connections, but, nevertheless, the Yogi-ism you heard—“When you come the fork in the road, take it.”—says something about waterways.  Sound far-fetched?  Even, shall we say, out in left field?  Well, just have a listen for about 20 seconds to this line-up of forks in Virginia’s water geography.

SOUNDS  - 21 sec – Voices saying names of Virginia waterways with “fork” or “forks” in the name

Waterway forks, or the tributaries of larger waterways, are part of the system of branches that collect and channel water moving across a landscape and within a watershed.  The smallest forks—like Left Fork Coal Creek—are headwater streams that, despite their size, have important physical, chemical, and biological roles within a watershed.  The largest forks—like the North and South forks of the Shenandoah River—can be well-known, defining features of a watershed and its region.  While many land settlements have “fork” in their name because roads meet there, sometimes those roads and the settlements they serve originated with forking waterways.  For example, English explorers of the James River in the 1600s came upon the Rivanna River confluence and named the location Point of Forks; today the area is the Fluvanna County town of Columbia.  On a larger scale, during the 1700s much of the Ohio River Valley was Virginia territory, and the location known as the Forks of the Ohio was a focal point for Ohio Valley travel and industry; today that location is Pittsburgh.

Thanks to several friends in Blacksburg for lending their voices to this episode, and a special thanks to the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame for permission to use the recording of Yogi Berra, from their 2009 video tribute upon Mr. Berra’s induction.  We close with another short excerpt from that video, in honor of Mr. Berra and the remarkable influence he had on American sports, culture, and language, relevant even to the history of waterways.

SOUND ~5 sec

For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The recording of Yogi Berra was from a video produced by the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame on the occasion of Mr. Berra’s induction in 2009.  Thanks to
Ron Jacober, historical consultant; and Greg Maracek, president, for granting permission to use an excerpt of the video, which is available online at  For more information about the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, please see their Web site at

The names of Virginia waterways or locations containing the words “fork” of “forks” were recorded by Virginia Water Radio on October 1, 2015.  Thanks for colleagues at Virginia Tech for participating in these recordings.  The waterways and locations mentioned were as follows:
Clear Fork
–tributary of the Bluestone River, in Tazewell and Bland counties.
Dry Fork –
tributary of the Clinch River in Tazewell County; tributary of Banister River in Pittsylvania County (there are probably other Virginia streams named Dry Fork, too).
Forks of Buffalo – Amherst County community at the c
onfluence of North Fork and South Fork of Buffalo River.
Forks of Water –
at confluence of South Branch Potomac River and Strait Creek in Highland County.
Bassett Forks – Henry County c
ommunity where Little Reed Creek, Reed Creek, and Smith River join.

Levisa Fork – Big Sandy River tributary in southwestern Virginia.
Russell Fork – Big Sandy River tributary in southwestern Virginia.
Tug Fork – Big Sandy River tributary with headwaters in southwestern Virginia.
North Fork Shenandoah River – western Shenandoah Valley.
South Fork Roanoke River – eastern Shenandoah Valley.
Middle Fork Holston River – Washington County.
Left Fork Coal Creek –Tazewell County.


Rivanna River (middle, background) confluence with the James River at Columbia (Fluvanna County), Va., June 17, 2007.

Meems Bottom covered bridge over the North Fork Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County, Va., Oct. 13, 2012.

Middle Fork Holston River in Washington County, Va., Oct. 3, 2010.


All of Virginia’s water “forks” are tributaries of some larger stream and are part of that larger waterway’s watershed, or basin.

Three large watersheds contain, collectively, all of Virginia’s lands and waterways: the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico.  Within those large watershed, Virginia’s major river basins are as follows, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed
– Chesapeake Bay Coastal, James River, Potomac River, Rappahannock River, and York River.

In the Atlantic Ocean watershed
– All of the river basins in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, plus Albemarle Sound Coastal, Atlantic Ocean Coastal, Chowan River, Roanoke River, and Yadkin River.

In the Gulf of Mexico watershed
- Big Sandy River, Clinch-Powell Rivers, Holston River, and New River.

A DCR map showing Virginia's river basins is at


Used in Audio
DeLorme Company (Yarmouth, Me.), Virginia Atlas and Gazetteer, 2000.National Baseball Hall of Fame, Yogi Berra, online at

Garson O’Toole, “Quote Investigator - When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It,” online at

St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, “Yogi Berra,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/National Water Information System, “Current Conditions for Virginia: Streamflow,” online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fishing/Virginia Rivers & Streams” online at, “River Names in Virginia,” online at

Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, Little Falls, N.J., “Yogi-isms,” online at

For More Information about Virginia Waterways

“Divide and Confluence,” Virginia Water Central, February 2000, pp. 8-11, online at  This is a basic introduction to watersheds and to Virginia’s main river basins.

“Hydrologic Unit Geography,” Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, online at  This site provides detailed information on how watersheds are designated, plus access to interactive maps of Virginia’s watersheds.

“Rivers and Watersheds: The Geology of Virginia,” College of William and Mary, online at  This site has maps of the major river basins in Virginia and provides detailed information on the geology of Virginia’s physiographic provinces and of the James and the Potomac-Shenandoah river basins.

“Surf Your Watershed,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), online at  This site allows users to locate watersheds and watershed information across the United States.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “USGS Water Science School,” online at

“Virginia’s Major Watersheds,” Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, online at

“Water Resources of Virginia,” U.S. Geological Survey, online at  This is the home page for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Virginia Water Science Center.

“Watershed Roundtables,” Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, online at  This site provides access to online information about watershed groups in Virginia’s major river basins.

Episode 162 (5-20-13): Three Forks of Sandy, by Bobby Taylor, focuses on the three forks of the Big Sandy River, all mentioned in this week’s episode (Levisa, Russell, and Tug).

Episode 198 (1-27-14): Hydrologists Study and Sing, “Where Does the Water Go?”
focuses on the science of hydrology, the study of water locations and movements.

Another episode with a baseball player connection is Episode 149 (2-18-13): George Washington, Walter Johnson, and the Rappahannock River.

For other previous episodes on water-related geographic features in Virginia, please see the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” category” category at the Index link above (


This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme

4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme

6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; and water monitoring.

Earth Science Course

ES.8 - influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2008 Social Studies SOLs:

Virginia Studies Course
VS.2 – physical geography of Virginia past and present.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.2 – water features important to the early history of the United States.
USI.5 – factors that shaped colonial America.
World Geography Course
WG.3 - how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.6 - past and present trends in human migration and cultural interaction as influenced by social, economic, political, and environmental factors.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at