Monday, June 18, 2018

Episode 425 (6-18-18): Introducing the South Fork Holston River

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:05).

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

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 6-15-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 18, 2018.

MUSIC – ~ 30 sec

This week, that excerpt of “Find Your Mountain,” by the Harrisonburg, Va.-based group, The Steel Wheels, opens a series of episodes on three relatively small Virginia rivers.  The series highlights waterways which are less widely known than big rivers like the James, Potomac, and Shenandoah, but which still contribute in big ways to Virginia’s common wealth of water, aquatic life, scenic beauty, and human activity.

SOUND - ~8

That’s the sound of the South Fork Holston River, near the Smyth County community of Sugar Grove on June 11, 2018.  Beginning in this area, the South Fork flows southwestward through Smyth and Washington counties to merge with the Middle Fork Holston River near Washington County’s border with Tennessee.  This combined river becomes South Holston Lake, a water-supply and hydroelectric reservoir created by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Further downstream at Kingsport, Tennessee, the South Fork joins the North Folk to form the mainstem Holston River, which in turn is a tributary of the Tennessee River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

Back upstream in Virginia, the South Fork Holston is “one of the premier trout streams” in southwestern Virginia and one of the Commonwealth’s “most beautiful rivers,” according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  The Holston name comes from an 18th Century explorer and Revolutionary War soldier named Stephen Holstein. Before that, native tribes in Virginia called the upper river “Hogoheegee,” a name now applied to a high school athletics district in the area.

By any name, the South Fork Holston River remains a resource worth finding among the mountains and valleys of southwestern Virginia.

Thanks to The Steel Wheels for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “Find Your Mountain.”

MUSIC – ~ 33 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.


“Find Your Mountain,” by The Steel Wheels, is from the 2015 album “Leave Some Things Behind,” used with permission.  More information about The Steel Wheels is available online at

The sound of the South Fork Holston River was recorded by Virginia Water Radio on June 11, 2018, along Teas Road in Smyth County, Va.

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.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


South Fork Holston River along Teas Road near Sugar Grove in Smyth County, Va., June 11, 2018. The audio for this episode of Virginia Water Radio was recorded at this location.

U.S. Forest Service fishing access sign for the South Fork Holston River along Teas Road in Smyth County, Va., June 11, 2018.

Upper Tennessee River watershed in Virginia, including the Holston River forks.  Map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), accessed on the Web site of the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable, online at


Following is information about the South Fork Holston River trout fishery, from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Holston River—South Fork,” online at, as of 6/15/18.

“The South Fork Holston River originates in Smyth County, Virginia, near the community of Sugar Grove, where it is formed by the combination of several coldwater streams.  There are two different special regulation trout fishing sections within the upper portions of the river. …

“The South Fork Holston River special regulation trout fishery is one of the premier trout streams in southwest Virginia.  It offers an excellent opportunity for anglers to catch many rainbow trout and large brown trout. ...Fly-fishing tackle is excellent and almost always produces good numbers of trout.  The river has a large forage base of aquatic insects and patterns to match include everything from tiny [caddisfly] larvae to giant black stonefly nymphs.

“During late winter, as spring approaches, a few warm, sunny days in succession may prompt blue-wing olive mayfly hatches, offering anglers occasional spurts of dry-fly action.

“The activity levels of trout and trout anglers both increase greatly with the arrival of spring.  All the standard fly-fishing tactics are applicable as insect hatches swing into action. In high-flow conditions, a bulky streamer or flashy spinner can produce impressive results.

“As the long days of summer bring low, clear flows, anglers must adjust their fishing tactics accordingly to be successful.  Keeping a low profile and making long casts can help prevent spooking the trout.

“As waters cool in fall, trout everywhere begin feeding heavily, and those in the South Fork are no exception.   Autumn also offers the best chance to tangle with one of the stream’s trophy brown trout as they prepare to spawn. …[T[the best advice for an angler considering a trip to the South Fork Holston River is simply go for it.  Even on the rare day when the trout refuse to cooperate, the experience of being on one of Virginia’s most beautiful rivers makes any trip worthwhile.”


Used for Audio

American Rivers, “Holston River,” online at

Holston River Soil and Water Conservation District, “The Holston River Watershed,” online at

No Depression—The Journal of Roots Music, “The Steel Wheels—Leave Some Things Behind” album review by John Apice, 8/26/15, online at

School Today Athletic Scheduler, “Hogoheegee District,” online at

Tennessee Sons of the American Revolution/Stephen Holston Chapter, “About Stephen Holston,” online at

Smyth County, Va., Web site, online at

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, “South Fork Holston River,” online at

Upper Tennessee River Roundtable, “Our Rivers—The Powell, Clinch, and Holston Rivers in Virginia,” online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Holston River—South Fork,” online at

For More Information about the Holston River

Drexel University Academy of Natural Sciences, “2010 South Fork Holston River

Environmental Monitoring Studies,” Report No. 10-04F, submitted to the Eastman Chemical Company Tennessee Operations, April 20, 2012, online (as PDF) at

Eastman Chemical Company, “Eastman and the South Fork Holston River,” 2 min./39 sec video on the history since 1965 of water quality and aquatic life in the South Fork in Bristol, Tenn.; online at

P.S. Hampson, et al., “Water Quality in the Upper Tennessee River Basin, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia 1994–98,” U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1205, 2000; online at 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

The other two episodes in the summer 2018 series on relatively small Virginia rivers are the following:
Episode 428, 7/9/18 - on the Jackson River.
Episode 426, 6/25/18 - on the Big Otter River.

Following is a link to another episode on Virginia waters in the Tennessee River watershed:
Episode 420, 5/14/18 – Exploring Virginia’s Tennessee River Tributaries Through “Clinch Mountain Quickstep” by Timothy Seaman.


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
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.

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.