Thursday, July 29, 2021

Episode 588 (8-2-21): A Singing Paddler’s Take on Time and Changes in the Upper Rappahannock River

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:22).

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 7-29-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of August 2, 2021.  This revised episode from September 2018 is part of a series this year of episodes related to watersheds and river basins.

MUSIC – ~10 sec – instrumental

This week, we feature a Virginia singer/songwriter’s music about time and changes along one of the Commonwealth’s major rivers.  Have a listen for about 30 more seconds.

MUSIC – ~ 30 sec – Lyrics: “Roads and boards, mills and mines used to line this stream--all reclaimed by floods and vines, foundations sprouting gums and pines. River flows on, so does time.  Canoe splits Rappahannock water; dip my paddle, let it glide.”

You’ve been listening to part of “Solitude,” by Bob Gramann of Fredericksburg, on the 2000 album, “That Squirrel Song.”  This and other river-themed songs by Mr. Gramann come in large part from his years of paddling the upper Rappahannock River and its tributaries, in the area between the Blue Ridge and the Fall Line at Fredericksburg.  The part of “Solitude” you heard describes some of the changes along the Rappahannock wrought by time and the effects of water, weather, humans, and other organisms.  Observers of other Virginia rivers and their watersheds might tell similar stories of change.

Some riverside changes—such as flood impacts—happen relatively quickly.  Others move at a slower pace, as with trees growing in an abandoned building foundation.  Whatever the pace, changes seen in and along a river reflect events happening not only in the river channel but also upstream in the river’s watershed.  Flooding, for example, is affected by upstream land uses and tributary patterns.  In turn, water flows affect stream and river shapes and materials, determining what habitats are available for living things.  And throughout a watershed, humans have land and water uses that affect downstream water quantity and quality.

Virginia’s rivers are continually being changed by unrelenting time and unceasing forces, and those rivers continue to provide services like water supply, irrigation, power generation, and others.  With all that going on, it’s challenging and worthwhile to ensure that the Commonwealth’s rivers retain places offering solitude and fostering creativity, such as in this week’s music.  Thanks to Bob Gramann for permission to use the music, and we close with about 35 more seconds of “Solitude.”

MUSIC – ~ 33 sec – Lyrics: “Rain and sleet, wind or heat, it’s all the same to me.  Weather—you can never choose; each day that’s mine, that day I’ll use, to flee from time in my canoe, its bow splits Rappahannock water.  Dip my paddle, let it fly.”


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 437, 9-10-18.

“Solitude,” from the 2000 album “That Squirrel Song,” is copyright by Bob Gramann, used with permission.  More information about Bob Gramann is available online at

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


The following photos along the Rappahannock River in Virginia were taken by Bob Gramann (except as noted) and used with his permission.

Rappahannock River at the confluence with the Rapidan River (at the juncture of the Virginia counties of Culpeper, Spotsylvania, and Stafford), April 2004.

Rappahannock River at low water (view toward Stafford County, Va.), August 2011.

Rappahannock River in winter (view toward Stafford County, Va.), February 2006.

Bob Gramann, composer of the music heard in the Virginia Water Radio episode, canoeing in the Rappahannock River’s “First Drop” at Fredericksburg, Va., April 1, 2018.  Photo by Lou Gramann.


The following information is quoted from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, “Rappahannock River-Upper," online at

“The Rappahannock River flows from its origin at Chester Gap in Rappahannock County approximately 184 miles to the Chesapeake Bay.  The first 62 miles, from the headwaters to Mayfield Bridge (Fredericksburg), are designated State Scenic River.  The river has a watershed of approximately 2,715 mi2, and average annual discharge near Fredericksburg is typically about 1,639 cubic feet per second (cfs). 

“During Colonial days, the Rappahannock River was a major shipping artery for transporting tobacco, salted fish, iron ore, and grains.  The watershed supports a variety of land uses; largely agricultural in the upper watershed, with manufacturing, light industrial, and retail applications throughout.  Soil erosion is a problem in the upper watershed.  Runoff from the major tributaries (Rapidan and Hazel Rivers) leaves the Rappahannock muddy after even minor storm events.

“Access to the Rappahannock system (defined here as the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers) is fairly limited and primitive. Established access points on the Rappahannock (traveling downstream) are at Kelly’s Ford (Route 672 off Route 651) in Culpeper County and Motts Landing (Route 618) in Spotsylvania County.  About 25 miles separates these canoe/Jon boat slides, and an overnight camp stop is nearly mandatory for those that float fish this reach. Another access point is located on the Rapidan River at Elys Ford (Route 610) in Spotsylvania County about 14 miles upstream of Motts Landing. Access may also be gained via several non-established points.  These consist of VDOT right-of-ways along bridges (e.g., Route 522 on the Rapidan). … 

“The Rappahannock River’s character changes abruptly in Fredericksburg at the fall line (the limit of tidal influence).  Above the fall line, the river is usually clear, swift, and dominant substrates are bedrock, boulder and cobble providing perfect habitat for smallmouth bass and related species.  However, below Route 1 the river is tidal, and the substrate is finer, dominated by sand; and the water is frequently murky.  Species composition shifts with habitat, and largemouth bass, catfish and anadromous species are more common in and below Fredericksburg.  Boaters and anglers can now navigate from upstream access points such as Motts Landing across the old Embrey Dam site and into the tidal waters adjacent to Fredericksburg.”


Used for Audio

U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Use in the United States,” online at

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality:
“Commonwealth of Virginia State Water Resources Plan,” April 2015, available online at;
“Final 2020 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report,” online at;
“Status of Virginia’s Water Resources,” October 2020, online (as a PDF) at;
“Water Quantity,” online at

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources:
“Rappahannock River-Upper," online at; “Rappahannock River-Tidal,” online at

For More Information about the Rappahannock River

City of Fredericksburg, Va., “Rappahannock River,” online at

Friends of the Rappahannock (non-profit organization), online at

Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, “Local TMDLs,” online at  Located at this site are Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) reports on the Upper Rappahannock River, the Hazel River, and other Rappahannock River basin waterways.

RappFLOW (Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watersheds; non-profit organization), online at

For More Information about Watersheds and River Basins

Richard B. Alexander et al., “The Role of Headwater Streams in Downstream Water Quality,” Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Vol. 43, No. 1, February 2007, pages 41-59; available online at (subscription may be required).

Radford University, “Virginia’s Rivers, online at

Craig Snyder, et al., “Significance of Headwater Streams and Perennial Springs in Ecological Monitoring in Shenandoah National Park,” 2013, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1178; available online (as a PDF) 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

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

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Hydrologic Unit Geography,” online at; and “Virginia’s Major Watersheds,” online at

Virginia Places, “The Continental (and Other) Divides,” online at

Virginia Places, “Rivers and Watersheds of Virginia,” online at

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, February 2000, “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 previous episodes on the Rappahannock River or its watershed.

Hazel River introduction (Rappahannock River watershed) – Episode 339, 10-24-16.
Madison County flooding in 1995 (on Rapidan River, in Rappahannock River watershed) – Episode 272, 6-29-15.
Rappahannock River introduction – Episode 89, 11-21-11.

Following are links to some other episodes on watersheds and Virginia rivers. 

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.
Bluffs on rivers and other waters – Episode 587, 7-26-21.
Bullpasture and Cowpasture rivers introduction (James River watershed) – Episode 469, 4-22-19.
Headwater streams – Episode 582, 6-21-21.
Jackson River introduction (James River watershed) – Episode 428, 7-9-19.
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.
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, 7-16-21.
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
6.6 – 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.
6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment.

Life Science
LS.5 – Biotic and abiotic factors affect an ecosystem.
LS.8 – Change occurs in ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms over time.
LS.9 – Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science
ES.6 – Resource use is complex.
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 Economics Theme
3.8 – Understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

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.
WG.4 – Types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources. 

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.