A (Scenic) River Runs Through It

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Scenic Rivers Act with an in-depth look at the Commonwealth’s waterways.

Photo credit Kyle LaFerriere

Hughes River brook trout fishing

Fishing for brook trout on the Hughes River.

Fishing for brook trout on the Hughes River.

With nearly 50,000 miles of streams and rivers, the Old Dominion has it all: cascading mountain rivulets, secret swimming holes, big white-water, moseying float rivers, wide-mouth estuaries perfect for sailing, and freshwater teeming with fish, oysters, and crabs. More than 980 miles of our rivers have been honored as Virginia Scenic Rivers—iconic examples of Virginia’s varied, distinctive, and unique fluvial heritage. 

As stated in the Virginia Scenic Rivers Act of 1970, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, a designated Scenic River “possesses superior natural and scenic beauty, fish and wildlife, and historic, recreational, geologic, cultural, and other assets.” Among these are the Russell Fork flowing through the gorge at Breaks Interstate Park; both the unique urban Falls of the James in Richmond and the Upper James River, with its picturesque swinging bridge, near Buchanan; the Nottoway River, which, at 72.5 miles, has the longest designated stretch in the state; and sections of the Hughes, Chickahominy, Jordan, Rappahannock, Rivanna, and many others. 

Today, the Scenic Rivers Program recognizes almost 1,000 miles of Virginia’s rivers, including six new segments designated during the 2020 General Assembly. As a result, more rivers are clean and free-flowing, outdoor river recreation is exploding, eagles have returned in impressive numbers, and sturgeon are once again migrating up the James River.

Learn more about the history of Virginia’s Scenic Rivers Act of 1970. 

Photo credit Kyle LaFerriere

Kayaking on the Hughes River

Kayaking on Hughes River.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum