Monday, July 9, 2018

Episode 428 (7-9-18): Introducing the Jackson River

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:45).

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

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 7-6-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 9, 2018.

MUSIC – ~8 sec

This week, that excerpt of “Heartbeat,” by the Harrisonburg, Va.-based group, The Steel Wheels, from their 2017 album “Wild as We Came Here,” opens the last of a series of episodes on three relatively small Virginia rivers.  The series highlights waterways that 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 – ~11 sec

That’s the sound of the Jackson River, at a public boat launch in Covington, Va., on June 3, 2017.  Described as “the jewel of Virginia’s Alleghany Mountains,” by the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson River starts from headwaters near the Highland County town of Monterey.  Flowing between mountain ridges, past two state wildlife management areas, and through national forest, the upper Jackson is a scenic trout-fishing river.

Just upstream of Covington, the river becomes Lake Moomaw, a flood-control and recreation reservoir formed by the Army Corps of Engineers’ Gathright Dam.  Cold, high-oxygen tailwaters below the dam provide other popular fishing areas, but certain stretches have been the subject of dispute over recreational use, stemming from claims that colonial-era King’s Grants give the grantees ownership of the riverbed.

Besides being a valuable fishery, the Jackson has been a key water resource in the history, industrial development, and present-day economies of Covington, including its paper-making industry, Alleghany County, and the towns of Clifton Forge and Iron Gate.  And at its most downstream point, the Jackson is connected to what’s perhaps Virginia’s most important river: the confluence of the Jackson with the Cowpasture River in Botetourt County forms the James River.

Thanks to The Steel Wheels for permission to use this week’s music, and in honor of the wild, vital, and persistent nature of the Jackson River and other flowing waters, we close with a few more seconds of “Heartbeat.”

MUSIC – ~17 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.


“Heartbeat,” by The Steel Wheels, is from the 2017 album “Wild As We Came Here,” used with permission.  More information about The Steel Wheels is available online at

The sound of the Jackson River was recorded by Virginia Water Radio on June 3, 2017, at the public boat launch beside the Route 18 bridge in Covington, Va.

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.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Jackson River in Covington, Va., June 5, 2017.

Confluence of the Jackson River (left background) and the Cowpasture River (right background) to form the James River in Botetourt County, Va., July 19, 2009.


On the Jackson River Fishery

From the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Jackson River,” online at

“The Jackson is an excellent smallmouth bass, rock bass, rainbow trout, and brown trout fishery above Lake Moomaw.  Below Gathright Dam, six public areas provide access to 18 miles of legally navigable water to Covington.  Riverfront land owners have brought successful civil trespass claims against anglers fishing in the two portions of the river highlighted on the map [online at the Web site listed above].  In light of these court actions, anglers may find it advisable to seek the permission of the riverfront property owners.

“Wild rainbow trout, wild brown trout, smallmouth bass, rock bass (redeye), and redbreast sunfish populate the tailwater below the dam….

“Large, lake-run rainbow trout can be caught in the Jackson River above Lake Moomaw during the winter and spring.  Much of this stretch is privately owned, so be sure you are fishing on National Forest property or have landowner permission.  The Jackson River, through Hidden Valley, provides ample trout fishing opportunities, especially a three-mile reach of special regulation water above the Muddy Run swinging bridge.

“[The] Jackson River, downstream of in Covington, affords good angling for smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish, and rock bass.
Watercraft launch facilities are being planned at several locations along the lower Jackson River.”


Alleghany County, Va., “Annual Drinking Water Quality Report - 2016” online (as PDF) at

Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, “Alleghany Highlands Blueway/Explore the Blueway,” online at; and “Outdoor Recreation,” online at

[Town of] Clifton Forge, Va., “History,” online at; and “Clifton Forge Water Treatment Plant,” online at

[City of] Covington, Va., “History,” online at; and “Water Plant,” online at

Elizabeth A. Murphy and Kurt Stephenson, “Inland Recreational Fishing Rights in Virginia: Implications of the Virginia Supreme Court Case Kraft v. Burr,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center Special Report SR13-1999, Blacksburg, Va., online at

No Depression—The Journal of Roots Music, “The Steel Wheels—Wild as We Came Here” album review by J. McSpadden, 5/11/17, online at, “Covington: The Life of an American Mill Town,” online at

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “Gathright Dam and Lake Moomaw,” online at

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, “Virginia Water Central News Grouper” posts on stream rights and the Jackson River, online at To start, see “Another Chapter in Virginia Streams and Kings Grants: April 2016 Lawsuit by Craig County Property Owners over Stream Navigability Determinations by Va. Marine Resources Commission in March 2015.

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

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

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Jackson River,” online at; and “Jackson River Tailwater Fishery Report April 2015,” by Stephen J. Resser, online (as PDF) 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 426, 6/25/18 - on the Big Otter River.
Episode 425, 6/18/18 - on the South Fork Holston River.

Following are links to other episodes on Virginia waters in the James River watershed.
Episode 87, 11/7/11 – the falls of the James River in Richmond.
Episode 164, 6/3/13 – Civil War attempts to capture Richmond.
Episode 201, 2/17/14 – Abraham Lincoln and the James River.
Episode 265, 5/11/15 – an introduction to geography, using the James River.
Episode 273, 7/6/15 – the Virginia Peninsula, between the James and York rivers.
Episode 334, 9/19/16 – a Virginia rivers quiz.
Episode 373, 6/19/17 – the James River Batteau Festival.
Episode 379,  7/31/17 – Virginia's Western or Alleghany Highlands.


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.

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 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.