Friday, July 23, 2021

Episode 587 (7-26-21): On the Bluffs of Rivers and Other Waters

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:00).

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 7-23-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 26, 2021.  This revised episode from August 2013 is part of a series this year of episodes related to watersheds and river basins.

MUSIC - ~16 sec – instrumental

This week, an instrumental selection by a Williamsburg, Virginia, musician sets the stage for exploring a kind of river feature that can be especially prominent geographically and historically.  Have a listen to the music for about 35 more seconds.

MUSIC - ~32 sec – instrumental

You’ve been listening to part of “James and York Bluffs,” by Timothy Seaman on his 1998 album “Celebration of Centuries.”  This tune honors York River State Park, located a few miles north of Williamsburg in James City County, and having—according to the album’s liner notes—“a paradise of bluffs.”  River bluffs—also called cliffs, palisades, and other terms—are high, steep, broad banks overlooking a river.    They’re found along many Virginia waterways, from Cedar Bluff on the Clinch River in Tazewell County, to Ball’s Bluff on the Potomac River in Loudoun County, to Drewry’s Bluff on the James River in Chesterfield County.  Bluffs can also form in coastal beach areas, such as along the Chesapeake Bay at Kiptopeke State Park in Northampton County.  Wherever they’re found, bluffs are products of complicated land and water factors acting at the point of the bluff as well as upstream in a watershed.  In addition, bluffs are history treasures.  They reveal geologic history in layers of ancient sediments; they’ve been important in the human history of many Virginia settlements and events; and they offer dramatic views of the natural history and heritage of the Commonwealth’s waters.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 15 more seconds of “James and York Bluffs.”

MUSIC - ~ 16 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 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 Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 173, 8-5-13.

“James and York Bluffs,” from the 1998 album “Celebration of Centuries,” copyright by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  More information about Timothy Seaman is available online at  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 320, 6-13-16.

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


View of a bluff at York River State Park, March 29, 2011.  Photo courtesy of Timothy Seaman.

View from a bluff at York River State Park, November 19, 2010.  Photo courtesy of Timothy Seaman.


Following are some Virginia locations with names related to river bluffs.

Ball’s Bluff, Potomac River, Loudoun County.
Bluff City, New River, Giles County.
Bluff Point (part of Colonial Beach), Potomac River, Westmoreland County.
Bremo Bluff, James River, Fluvanna County.
Cedar Bluff, Clinch River, Tazewell County.
Colonial Heights, Appomattox River, Chesterfield County.
Drewry’s Bluff, James River, Chesterfield County.
Madison Heights, James River, Amherst County.


Used for Audio

College of William and Mary, “Geology of Virginia/Cliffs of Westmoreland,” by Chuck Bailey, Aug. 1, 2016, online at

County of Northampton, Virginia, “Beaches/Kiptopeke State Park,” online at

DeLorme Company of Yarmouth, Maine, Virginia Atlas & Gazetteer, 2000. 

National Geographic, “Bluff,” online at

National Park Service/Richmond National Battlefield Park, “Drewry’s Bluff,” online at

Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, “Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park,” online at, “Civil War in Richmond—Drewry’s Bluff,” video (1 min./8 sec.) online at

Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus-American Edition, Oxford University Press, 1996.

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resource Conservation Service, “Glossary of Landform and Geologic Terms,” online (as a PDF) at

For More Information about Watersheds and River Basins

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

Radford University, “Virginia’s Rivers, online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/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;
“NPDES Stormwater Program,” 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’s Major Watersheds,” 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:
“The Continental (and Other) Divides,” online at;
“Rivers and Watersheds of Virginia,” online at

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, “Divide and Confluence,” by Alan Raflo (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

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.

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 rivers quiz – Episode 586, 7-19-21.

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 and Space Systems
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.
5.8 – Earth constantly changes.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
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.

BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

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.

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.2 – How selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

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.