Friday, May 4, 2018

Episode 420 (5-14-18): Exploring Virginia’s Tennessee River Tributaries Through “Clinch Mountain Quickstep” by Timothy Seaman

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:43).

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 14, 2018.  This is the second of a series of four revisits to previous episodes on the watershed connections of western Virginia rivers.

MUSIC – ~7 sec

This week, we feature a music selection honoring a southwestern Virginia mountain and a nearby water-carved landmark, both within a major river basin located, in turn, within the watersheds of the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.  Have a listen for about 30 more seconds.

MUSIC - ~30 sec

You’ve been listening to part of “Clinch Mountain Quickstep,” performed by Timothy Seaman and Phillip Skeens on the 2002 album, “Sycamore Rapids,” from Pine Wind Music.   Clinch Mountain is a prominent ridge stretching across five southwestern Virginia counties and into Tennessee.   It forms the divide between the watersheds of the Clinch River to the north and the Holston River to the south, two of Virginia’s major tributaries to the Upper Tennessee River.  The Tennessee River eventually flows into the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky, and the Ohio continues on to the Mississippi.

Back on the Clinch River, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has described that area as “one of the greatest hotspots for biodiversity in North America,” containing over 120 fish species and “more species of endangered and rare freshwater mussels than anywhere else in the world.”  This week’s “Clinch Mountain Quickstep” was recorded to honor one of the area’s landmarks: Natural Tunnel State Park.  The park is named after an 800-foot long, 100-foot high tunnel carved over hundreds of thousands of years by groundwater and by Stock Creek, a Clinch River tributary.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “Clinch Mountain Quickstep.”

MUSIC - ~18 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 Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the 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 184, 10-21-13.

“Clinch Mountain Quickstep” and “Sycamore Rapids” are copyright 2002 by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  Information on Mr. Seaman is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  Information on Mr. Cosgrove i s available online at


Virginia’s major river basins. The Virginia portions of the upper Tennessee watershed are shown at the lower left: light yellow for the Clinch-Powell watershed, and purple for the Holtson watershed. Map from Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation,

View from inside Natural Tunnel in Scott County, Virginia. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, accessed at

The North Fork Holston River, shown here in Washington County, Virginia, in April 2010, flows along the southern side of Clinch Mountain in Smyth and Washington counties.

The Clinch River near Sneedville (Hancock County), Tennessee, just below the Virginia-Tennessee state line, 2006. Photo courtesy of Jess Jones, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (provided May 2013).


Source: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Clinch River,” undated, accessed online at on 5/4/18.

“The Clinch River is the crown of the mountain empire flowing southwestward from its origin near the town of Tazewell, the Clinch travels some 135 miles, reaching portions of Tazewell, Russell, Wise, and Scott counties on its way to the Tennessee state line.  In a cast of Virginia rivers that portray history and natural wealth, the Clinch has a story and a character all its own.

“The Clinch River, which was named after on otherwise forgotten explorer, played a major role in the exploration and settlement of Southwest Virginia.  Many early settlers made their homes along its eastern shore, while other crossed the formidable flow and explored the wilderness beyond its banks. Probably the most famous explorer to pace the banks of the Clinch and challenge its currents was Daniel Boone.  Boone resided for some time near Castlewood, and negotiated the river during his many trips through Southwest Virginia.  Today, towns and settlements along its course bear names which are evidence of their historical roles.  Places like Blackford, Nash’s Ford, Fort Blackmore, and Speer’s Ferry are a few examples.

“Although the landscapes have changed along the Clinch, the rugged and unique river still remains.  The river does show signs of human alteration, however.  To prevent flooding in the town of Saint Paul, the river was re-routed around the town.  Observant floaters will note that the present river channel around the south side of Saint Paul was blasted out of solid rock.  Two major fish kills have occurred in the last 30 years.  These fish kills were the result of toxic spills that originated near Carbo.  The river has recovered admirably from the fish kills of the past, and an incredible diversity of life is now present in and around the river.

“The Clinch supports a unique assemblage of aquatic life.  The river is home to about 50 species of mussels, which is more than any other river in the world and over 100 species are non-game fish – minnows and darters that sport brilliant colors and play a vital role in the survival of other fish and mussel species.  But, the variety of sport fish is what makes the Clinch a great destination for anglers.”


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

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

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Clinch River: Global Hotspot for Biodiversity and Endangered Species,” starting at page 22 in “Healthy Waters” (undated), online (as a PDF) at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Natural Tunnel State Park,” online at

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

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Clinch River,” online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Clinch Mountain WMA,” 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.
Episode 419, 5/7/18 – Meet the Big Sandy Watershed with “Three Forks of Sandy” by Bobby Taylor


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 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
5.7 – constant change of Earth’s surface (including weathering and erosion).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 – living things as part of a system, including habitats.
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.9 - adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors, including characteristics of land, marine, and freshwater environments.
LS.10 - changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.

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.

Biology Course
BIO.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

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.