Friday, July 16, 2021

Episode 586 (7-19-21): A Virginia Rivers and Watersheds Quiz Game

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:41).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 7-16-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 19, 2021.  This revised episode from September 2016 is part of a series this year of episodes related to watersheds and river basins.

SOUND – ~ 7 sec

This week, that sound of the Roanoke River, recorded along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, Va., sets the stage for a Virginia rivers quiz game to highlight some key facts about the Commonwealth major rivers and their watersheds.

I’ll ask you six questions about Virginia’s rivers.  Then I’ll give you the answer after a few seconds of some appropriate music: “Exploring the Rivers,” by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg, Va.

Let the game begin!

Question 1: What river that is very much associated with Virginia’s past and present is not actually IN Virginia.

MUSIC - ~ 5 sec – instrumental

That’s the Potomac River, whose main stem along Virginia’s northern border is owned by the State of Maryland.

Question 2: Of the James, Rappahannock, and York rivers, which two have their entire watersheds in Virginia? 

MUSIC - ~ 5 sec – instrumental

The answer is the Rappahannock and the York.  A small part of the headwaters of the James is in West Virginia.

Question 3: What is the largest river watershed in Virginia?

MUSIC - ~ 5 sec – instrumental

This time the answer IS the James River, whose watershed covers over 10,000 square miles in Virginia.

Question 5: What’s the longest river in Virginia, counting only each river’s main stem, not all of the tributaries?

MUSIC - ~ 4 sec – instrumental

Once again, it’s the James, whose main stem travels about 340 miles.

Question 5: What two large Virginia rivers flow generally north?

MUSIC - ~ 6 sec – instrumental

Virginia’s major northerly-flowing rivers are the New and the Shenandoah.

And last, question 6: What major river flows southwesterly into Tennessee?

MUSIC - ~ 6 sec – instrumental

That’s the Clinch River, one of several rivers in southwestern Virginia flowing toward the Volunteer State in the Tennessee River watershed, which in turn is part of the watersheds of the Ohio River, Mississippi River, and Gulf of Mexico.

If you’re thinking that this game left out some major Virginia rivers and river basins, you’re right!  Other main rivers in the Commonwealth include the Dan, Holston, Powell, and Roanoke.  And other major watersheds with areas in Virginia include those of the Big Sandy River, which forms the border between Kentucky and West Virginia; the Chowan and Yadkin rivers, whose main stems are in North Carolina; Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay coastal rivers; and Albemarle Sound on North Carolina’s coast.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close about 25 more seconds of “Exploring the Rivers.”

MUSIC – ~ 27 sec – instrumental


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 Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 344, 9-19-16.

The sounds of the Roanoke River were recorded by Virginia Water Radio from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, Va., on June 15, 2017.

“Exploring the Rivers,” on the 2006 album “Jamestown: On the Edge of a Vast Continent,” is copyright by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Records, used with permission.  More information about Timothy Seaman is available online at  This music used previously Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 475, 6-3-19.

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


Map showing Virginia’s major watersheds.  Map from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Virginia’s Major Watersheds,” online at

Roanoke River as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway near the City of Roanoke, Va., June 15, 2017 (the is the location of the recording heard at the beginning of this episode).

James River at Robius boat landing in Chesterfield County, Va., June 21, 2007.

New River near Eggleston, Va. (Giles County), August 13, 2016.

White’s Ferry on the Potomac River, viewed from Loudoun County, Va., March 23, 2008.

Rappahannock River near Remington, Va., (Fauquier County), December 27, 2009.

North Fork Shenandoah River at U.S. Highway 55 on the county line between Shenandoah and Warren counties, Va., October 13, 2012.


The following table of information about Virginia’s 14 major watersheds is from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia’s Major Watersheds,” online at  This information was also included in the Show Notes for Virginia Water Radio Episode 581, 6-14-21, an introduction to watersheds.




Albemarle Sound Coastal


Dismal Swamp, North Landing River, Back Bay

Atlantic Ocean Coastal


Chincoteague Bay, Hog Island Bay

Chesapeake Bay Coastal


Chesapeake Bay, Piankatank River



Nottaway River, Meherrin River, Blackwater River



James River, Appomattox River, Maury River, Jackson River, Rivanna River



New River, Little River, Walker Creek

Potomac - Shenandoah


Potomac River, S. Fork Shenandoah River, N. Fork Shenandoah River



Rappahannock River, Rapidan River, Hazel River



Roanoke River, Dan River, Banister River, Kerr Reservoir



Ararat River



York River, Pamunkey River, Mattaponi River



N. Fork Holston River, Middle Fork Holston River, S. Fork Holston River

Clinch - Powell


Clinch River, Powell River, Guest River

Big Sandy


Levisa Fork, Russel Fork, Tug Fork


Used for Audio

Radford University, “Virginia’s Rivers,” online at

Frits van der Leeden:
The Environmental Almanac of Virginia
, Tennyson Press, Lexington, Va., 1998;
Virginia Water Atlas, Tennyson Press, Lexington, Va., 1993.

Kathryn P. Sevebeck, Jacob H. Kahn, and Nancy L. Chapman, Virginia’s Waters, Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Blacksburg, Va., 1986 (out of print).

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

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Final 2020 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report,” online at  Chapter 2, “State Background Information,” states that Virginia has an estimated 100,923 miles of rivers and streams.

Virginia Museum of Natural History, “Virginia’s Water Resources,” special issue of Virginia Explorer, Winter 2000, Martinsville, Va.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, “West Virginia Watersheds,” online at

For More Information about Watersheds and River Basins

College of William and Mary Department of Geology, “The Geology of Virginia—Hydrology,” online at

Natural Resources Conservation Service/Virginia, “2020 Virginia Water Resources Progress Report,” online at  This report has descriptions of projects in many Virginia watersheds.  The 2017 report is online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “How’s My Waterway,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Science School/Watersheds and Drainage Basins,” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Hydrologic Unit Geography,” online at

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality:
“Commonwealth of Virginia State Water Resources Plan,” April 2015, available online at;
“Status of Virginia’s Water Resources,” October 2020, online (as a PDF) at;
“Water Quantity,” online at

Virginia Places:
“Continental (and Other) Divides,” online at;
“Rivers and Watersheds of Virginia,” online at

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, “Divide and Confluence,” by Alan Raflo, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, February 2000, pages 8-11, available 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 watersheds and Virginia rivers.  Please note that some of these episodes are being redone in summer 2021; in those cases, the respective links below will have information on the updated episodes.

Big Otter River introduction (Roanoke River watershed) – Episode 419, 5-7-18.

Big Sandy River watershed introduction – Episode 419, 5-7-18.

Blue Ridge origin of river watersheds – Episode 583, 6-28-21

Bullpasture and Cowpasture rivers introduction (James River watershed) – Episode 469, 4-22-19.

Hazel River introduction (Rappahannock River watershed) – Episode 339, 10-24-16.

Headwater streams – Episode 582, 6-21-21.

Jackson River introduction (James River watershed) – Episode 428, 7-9-19.

Madison County flooding in 1995 (on Rapidan River, in Rappahannock River watershed) – Episode 272, 6-29-15

Musical tour of rivers and watersheds - Episode 251, 2-2-15.

New River introduction – Episode 109, 5-7-12.

Ohio River basin introduction – Episode 421, 5-21-18.

Ohio River basin connections through watersheds and history – Episode 422, 5-28-18;

Passage Creek and Fort Valley introduction (Shenandoah River watershed) – Episode 331 – 8/29/16.

River bluffs – Episode 173, 8-5-13.

Rappahannock River introduction – Episode 89, 11-21-11.

Shenandoah River introduction – Episode 130 – 10/1/12.

Smith River and Philpott Reservoir introduction (Roanoke River watershed) – Episode 360, 3-20-17.

South Fork Holston River introduction (Clinch-Powell/Upper Tennessee River watershed) – Episode 425, 6-18-18.

Staunton River introduction (part of the Roanoke River) – Episode 374, 6-26-17.

Virginia surface water numbers – Episode 539, 8-24-20.

Virginia’s Tennessee River tributaries – Episode 420, 5-14-18.

Water cycle introduction – Episode 191, 12-9-13; and water cycle diagrams reconsidered – Episode 480, 7-8-19.

Watershed and water cycle terms related to stormwater – Episode 585, 7-12-21.

Watersheds introduction – Episode 581, 6-14-21.

Water quantity information sources – Episode 546, 10-12-20.

Werowocomoco native people’s civilization history, centered in the York River watershed – Episode 364, 12-12-16.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems. 

Earth Science
ES.8 – Freshwater resources influence and are influenced by geologic processes and human activity.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.
2.6 – Major rivers, mountains, and other geographic features of North America and other continents.
3.6 – Major rivers, mountains, and other geographic features of North America and other continents.

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – Natural, human, and capital resources.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – Impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.2 – Physical geography and native peoples of Virginia past and present.
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.

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 333, 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, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.

Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.

Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.

Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.

Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.