Friday, May 4, 2018

Episode 419 (5-7-18): Meet the Big Sandy Watershed with “Three Forks of Sandy,” by Bobby Taylor

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:06).

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

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-4-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of May 7, 2018.  This is the first of a series of four revisits to previous episodes on the watershed connections of western Virginia rivers.

MUSIC – ~7 sec

This week, we feature an old-time fiddle tune named for a trio of rivers that connect Virginia to the waters of neighboring Appalachian states, the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, and—far downstream—the Gulf of Mexico.  Have a listen for about 25 seconds.

MUSIC - ~25 sec

You’ve been listening to part of “Three Forks of Sandy,” on the 2009 album “Bobby Taylor Plays Ragged Shirt and Other Favorite Fiddle Tunes from West Virginia,” on Vigortone Records.  The tune is attributed to Ed Haley, a West Virginia native who settled in Kentucky and became a well-known traditional fiddler in the early-to-mid 1900s, despite having lost his eyesight at age three.

The tune’s name refers to the three forks of the Big Sandy River: Levisa, Russell, and Tug, all of which have headwaters in southwestern Virginia.  Near Pikeville, Kentucky, the Russell flows into the Levisa, which in turn joins the Tug to form the Big Sandy River along the Kentucky-West Virginia border.  Near Catlettsburg, Kentucky, where Ed Haley settled, the Big Sandy joins the Ohio River, one of the major tributaries of the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks to Bobby Taylor for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “Three Forks of Sandy.”

MUSIC - ~12 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode revises and replaces Episode 162, 5-20-13.

“Three Forks of Sandy” and “Bobby Taylor Plays Ragged Shirt and Other Favorite Fiddle Tunes from West Virginia” are copyright by Bobby Taylor and Vigortone Records, used with permission.  Information about Bobby Taylor is available online at his Facebook site,

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  Information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Virginia’s major river basins.  The Virginia portion of the Big Sandy River watershed is shown in green at the lower left.  Map from Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation,

Big Sandy River watershed, showing its three main forks, the Levisa, Russell, and Tug. Map by Kmusser via Wikimedia Commons, accessed
at Made available for public use according to Creative Commons License 3.0 (


John Hartford, “Big Sandy River,” in the West Virginia Humanities Council’s “West Virginia Encyclopedia,” online at  This article includes information of “Three Forks of Sandy.”

Andrew Kuntz, “The Traditional Tune Archive/Three Forks of Sandy,” online at

David Lynch, “Old-Time Music Home Page/Ed Haley,” online at

State Farm Road Atlas, Rand McNally and Company, Skokie, Ill., 1998.

Virginia Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme, Yarmouth, Me., 2000.

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


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject category.

Following are links to some other episodes on waters in the Ohio River watershed.
Episode 109 – 5/7/12 – “Banks of New River” by Whitetop Mountain Band.
Episode 177 – 9/2/13 – “Sandy Boys,” by Sara Grey, for Labor Day.
Episode 179 – 9/16/13 – Twenty-two Miles Along the New River Trail.
Episode 232 - 9/22/14 – “Samuel Mason” by Andrew and Noah vanNorstrand Recalls a Notorious, Virginia-born River Pirate (on piracy on the Ohio River in the 1800s by Virginian Samuel Mason).
Episode 264 – 5/4/15 – A Bird Day on the New River.


The episode may help with Virginia 2013 Music SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

This episode may also help with the following Virginia 2010 Science 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; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

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

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.2 – major land and water features of North America, including their importance in history.

World Geography Course
WG.3 - how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.5 – regions of United States and Canada.

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

Following are links to previous Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.