The 766 square mile Rivanna River Watershed is made up of many sub-watersheds. Below are links to view maps and learn more about the smaller watersheds in our community. As noted in these sub-watershed descriptions, some of these waterways have been deemed “Impaired” by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in the 2022 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report (Integrated Report). DEQ monitors water quality in Virginia’s rivers, lakes and tidal waters to determine whether the waters can safely be used for swimming, fishing and drinking. If standards are not met, the waterway is deemed to be “impaired.”
When waterways are deemed to be impaired by particular pollutants, Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) are developed by DEQ. TMDLs determine the total amount of those pollutants that a water body can handle and still be clean enough to meet water quality standards. An “impaired” designation begins a process that (1) develops a TMDL for the water body, (2) develops a plan for improving water quality, (3) submits that plan for approval by the Environmental Protection Agency, and (4) implements that plan. To be eligible for implementation funding, the watershed must have a completed and approved plan for improvement. Waterways in the 2022 Impaired Waters 303(d) List (Category 5) do not yet have a TMDL developed and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Waterways that are “impaired” and already have a TMDL completed are listed here: 2022 Impaired Waters (Category 4A/4D) TMDL Approved and (Category 4B) Other Control Measures Present.
See the interactive map below for details on the Rivanna Watershed and its sub-watersheds in Albemarle County.
Moormans River Watershed
The Moormans River Watershed is 78 square miles and is a large feeder watershed to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. This reservoir is part of the public water supply for Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Major streams within the watershed include the Moormans River, Doyles River, Rocky Creek, and Wards Creek. The headwaters of the watershed are in the Shenandoah National Park (North Fork and South Fork of the Moormans). The Sugar Hollow Reservoir, another public water supply reservoir for Charlottesville and Albemarle County, is located near the headwaters. Communities in or near the watershed include Browns Cove, White Hall, Millington, and parts of Free Union. The main stem of the Moormans River is both a State Scenic River and a County Scenic Stream (as designated in the County Zoning Ordinance).
The Moormans is one of the jewels of Albemarle County. It is popular for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and hiking. Monitoring over the years indicates that the Moormans is a clean river with a healthy population of aquatic organisms. The Moormans was listed as “impaired” due to non-optimal stream temperature in DEQ’s 2016 Impaired Waters Report but delisted in the 2022 report due to improvements in water quality. The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority maintains a minimum instream flow release which mimics the variability of natural stream flow in the watershed.
Buck Mountain Creek Watershed
The Buck Mountain Creek Watershed is 36 square miles and is a large feeder watershed to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. This reservoir is the primary public water supply for Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Streams in this watershed include Buck Mountain Creek, Piney Creek, and Burruss Branch. The watershed is largely a rural and agricultural area, with the headwaters being in the Shenandoah National Park along the Blue Ridge. The small community of Boonesville is located in the watershed.
North Fork Rivanna River Watershed
The North Fork Rivanna River Watershed is 169 square miles, and the river itself is one of the two major stream systems that feed the Rivanna River (the other being the South Fork Rivanna River). The headwaters of the North Fork Rivanna River Watershed are in Greene County, and include all of the land generally west of Route 29 and south of Route 33 (in a line from Ruckersville to Elkton). The largest stream in the watershed is the North Fork Rivanna River, and feeder streams include Preddy Creek, Flannigan Branch, Jacobs Run, Flat Branch, Beaverdam Creek, Swift Run, and the Lynch River. Albemarle County communities within the watershed include Stony Point, Advance Mills, and Burnley.
Land uses within the watershed are very diverse, with wooded slopes of the Blue Ridge in the headwaters, agricultural and forestry lands, commercial areas along Route 29 and 33, and areas of residential development. The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority relies on the North Fork as a source of public water supply for the northern reaches of Albemarle County. A section of the North Fork Rivanna River and other streams in its watershed are listed as "impaired " in DEQ’s 2022 Impaired Waters report. For details of the impairments, click here. TMDLs have been completed for bacterial and benthic impairments in the North Fork Rivanna River.
Mechunk Creek Watershed
The Mechunk Creek Watershed is 62 square miles, 35 of which are in Albemarle County (the remainder being in Fluvanna County). The Albemarle section of the watershed is characterized by many tributaries that drain the eastern slope of the Southwest Mountains, including Turkeysag Creek, Daniel's Branch, Jack's Branch, and others. The main stem of Mechunk Creek runs close to the County's eastern border, and runs parallel to railroad tracks for much of its length. The watershed is largely rural and agricultural, with the western edge being the ridge of the Southwest Mountains. Parts of Keswick (generally north of Route 616) drain to Mechunk Creek.
Mechums River Watershed
The Mechums River Watershed is 99 square miles, and is the largest feeder watershed to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, the primary public water supply for Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Major streams within the watershed include the Mechums River, Stockton Creek, Lickinghole Creek, and Beaver Creek. The Beaver Creek Reservoir, the public water supply for Crozet, is located on Beaver Creek downstream from Crozet. Lake Albemarle, a public fishing and boating lake maintained by the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, is also located in the Mechums Watershed. Communities within the watershed include Crozet, Greenwood, Batesville, Yancey Mills, and part of White Hall (generally south of Garth Road).
The Mechums River has been monitored over the years by the Department of Environmental Quality, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, and by the StreamWatch volunteer stream monitoring program (through the Rivanna Conservation Alliance). Most notably, the Mechums watershed is thought to produce the highest sediment load to the downstream South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The Mechums River and other streams in that watershed are listed as "impaired” in DEQ’s 2016 Impaired Waters report. For details of the impairments, click here. A TMDL has been developed for a bacterial impairment in the Mechums River (2016 Impaired Waters, TMDL Approved and Other Control Measures Present).
The Mechums is one of the local streams that is continuously monitored for stream flow by the Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Geologic Survey: see Real-Time Mechums River Flow Gage.
Ivy Creek Watershed
The Ivy Creek Watershed is 29 square miles, and is a large feeder watershed to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. Streams within the watershed include Ivy Creek, Little Ivy Creek, Jumping Branch, and numerous small streams. Communities in the watershed include Ivy, West Leigh Subdivision, and Farmington. The Ivy Creek Natural Area, maintained by the Ivy Creek Foundation, is located along the shores of Ivy Creek as it enters the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. Sections of Ivy Creek and some tributaries are listed as "impaired " in DEQ’s 2016 Impaired Waters report. For details of the impairments, click here.
South Fork Rivanna Watershed (above the reservoir)
The total land area in Albemarle County that drains to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is 260 square miles. This is a very large drainage area, with many farms, homes, businesses, roads, and yards that contribute runoff to one of the region's water supply reservoirs. The reservoir is the largest source of drinking water for the City of Charlottesville and areas of Albemarle County served by the Albemarle County Service Authority. This watershed has been studied for many years, due to its importance to the area's water supply. Recent studies on South Fork Rivanna Reservoir water quality can be found on the Rivanna Authorities website.
The South Fork Rivanna Watershed above the reservoir includes the following tributary watersheds: Mechums River, Moormans River, Buck Mountain Creek and Ivy Creek. The area that drains directly into the South Fork Rivanna River or South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is 16 square miles, and includes parts of Earlysville (north of Route 676, west of the airport and Route 743 and south of Route 663). Tributary streams include: Naked Creek and Fishing Creek, among other smaller feeder streams. Many subdivisions and farms dot this watershed. Several tributaries of the South Fork Rivanna River are listed as "impaired" in DEQ’s 2016 Impaired Waters report. For details of the impairments, click here.
South Fork Rivanna Watershed (below the reservoir)
Below the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, the South Fork Rivanna River watershed is nine square miles in size before this river meets up with the North Fork Rivanna to form the main stem of the Rivanna River. While this area is a small part of the Albemarle County, it looms large in terms of land use activity. The area contains a swath of Route 29 (between Rio Road and Airport Road), the southern part of the airport, and many residential communities, including Woodbrook, Carrsbrook, Northfields, Hollymead, Forest Lakes, and parts of Proffit (west of Route 643). Powell Creek is a major tributary that runs through the Forest Lakes communities (North and South). The South Fork Rivanna, from the water intake to its confluence with the main stem, and Powell Creek, have been listed as "impaired" in DEQ’s 2016 Impaired Waters report. For details of the impairments, click here.
Meadow Creek Watershed
The Meadow Creek Watershed is the most urbanized watershed in the Rivanna River Basin. The watershed is 8 square miles, and includes the northern half of the City of Charlottesville, parts of the University of Virginia, and urbanized areas of Albemarle County south of Rio Road. Meadow Creek flows into the Rivanna River opposite Darden Towe Park. The watershed has many areas of "impervious cover," meaning land that does not absorb rain water, but sheds it quickly. These include roads, parking lots, rooftops, and driveways. During storm events, floodwaters in Meadow Creek rise very quickly and can become a raging torrent in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, the rain water also carries many pollutants into the creek, including sediment, oil and grease, heavy metals, bacteria, and nutrients. Monitoring conducted in Meadow Creek has found many of these pollutants when the water is high and muddy-looking. Also, the biological health of Meadow Creek is much lower than less developed watersheds in the Rivanna River Basin. For these reasons, Meadow Creek is listed as "impaired " in DEQ’s 2016 Impaired Waters report. For details of the impairment, click here. A TMDL has been developed for a bacterial impairment in Meadow Creek (2016 Impaired Waters, TMDL Approved and Other Control Measures Present).
The picture is not entirely bleak for the Meadow Creek Watershed. The University of Virginia, Albemarle County, and the City of Charlottesville have completed several watershed restoration projects along Meadow Creek and its tributaries. In 2012, a major stream restoration project was initiated along 9,000 linear feet of the creek to reduce sedimentation by stabilizing streambanks, and to filter stormwater runoff by enhancing and preserving the forested buffers and wetlands along the creek.
Additionally, many miles of trails have been constructed and maintained by the Rivanna Trails Foundation. These trails run through beautiful woods and meadows along the creek, allowing the community to enjoy a bit of nature right in the midst of the City.
Moores Creek Watershed
The Moores Creek Watershed is a diverse place, ranging from city streets to forests, fields, mountains and a water supply reservoir. The watershed is 36 square miles and includes the southern half of the City of Charlottesville, parts of the University of Virginia, and parts of southern Albemarle County. The watershed is bounded to the east by the ridge line of Carters Mountain and to the west by the Ragged Mountain ridge. Moores Creek flows into the Rivanna River at Woolen Mills. The watershed divide between Moores Creek and the Rivanna River runs right through Thomas Jefferson's hilltop home, Monticello. Significant tributaries in the Moores Creek watershed include Biscuit Run, Morey Creek, and Rock Creek. Ragged Mountain Reservoir, a drinking water source for Charlottesville and parts of Albemarle, is also located on the western slopes of the watershed in its headwaters. Notable sites include Monticello, Scott Stadium, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Birdwood Golf Course, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority's Moores Creek Sewage Treatment Plant, and the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, maintained by the Ivy Creek Foundation.
Monitoring conducted in Moores Creek has found many pollutants associated with urban runoff, including bacteria, sediment, and heavy metals. Moores Creek and other tributaries in that watershed are listed as "impaired " in DEQ’s 2016 Impaired Waters report. For details of the impairments, click here. A TMDL was developed for a bacterial impairment in Moores Creek (2016 Impaired Waters, TMDL Approved and Other Control Measures Present), and a TMDL Implementation Plan was completed and approved. Several projects, including urban stormwater management and stream restoration efforts, as well as repairing failing septic systems, have been implemented in the watershed to address the impairment.
The Moores Creek Watershed is, nevertheless, home to some wonderful and rugged landscapes and miles of trails maintained by the City of Charlottesville at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area.
Rivanna River Watershed (main stem)
The main stem of the Rivanna River begins at the confluence of the North Fork Rivanna and South Fork Rivanna near Woodbrook and Dunlora. From there, the River winds south along Pen Park and Darden Towe Park, with the City's Greenbelt Trail, Riverview Park, Rivanna Trails Foundation trail systems, and County Greenway paths along both banks. After crossing under Free Bridge (Route 250 East) the river continues in a southeastern direction on an historic course towards the Fluvanna County line. This section of the Rivanna features remnants of old locks and mills, reminders of a time when the Rivanna served as a major transportation and commerce corridor for Albemarle County and Charlottesville.
The main stem Rivanna River watershed includes 44 square miles of Albemarle County (with many more square miles in Fluvanna County). Communities in this watershed include Charlottesville, Key West, Pantops Mountain, Glenmore, Shadwell, Milton, and parts of Simeon, Keswick and Boyd Tavern. Significant tributaries are Redbud Creek, Meadow Creek, Moores Creek, and Carroll Creek. The section of the Rivanna from the base of the South Fork Reservoir all the way down to the James River, a stretch of 46 miles, is designated a State Scenic River, and is popular for canoeing and fishing. You can check real-time flows on the Rivanna River at Palmyra by viewing online Rivanna River gage data.
A TMDL was developed for a bacterial impairment in the Rivanna River (2016 Impaired Waters, TMDL Approved and Other Control Measures Present), and a TMDL Implementation Plan was completed and approved. Several projects, including urban stormwater management and stream restoration efforts, as well as repairing failing septic systems and fencing livestock out of streams, have been implemented in the watershed to address the impairment.
The Rivanna River is one of the unique features connecting Charlottesville, Albemarle County, the University of Virginia, and the many residents of these localities. The Rivanna and its tributaries provide our water supply and wastewater treatment, as well as the setting for many parks and trails, recreation, and scenic beauty.
Buck Island Creek Watershed
The 37-square-mile Buck Island Creek Watershed is largely agricultural and rural. Route 53 roughly follows the northern boundary of the watershed, and Routes 795, 620, and 729 traverse the watershed. The ridgeline of Carters Mountain forms the watershed divide to the west. Streams within the watershed include Houchins Creek, Massey Creek, Lee Jones Creek, Slate Quarry Creek, Jacobs Creek, and Winston Creek, all of which flow into the main stem of Buck Island Creek. Buck Island Creek enters the Rivanna River at the large horseshoe bend near the Fluvanna County line. Parts of the communities of Blenheim and Woodridge lie within this watershed (north of Route 708).
Lake Monticello Watershed
A little known fact: a very small part of Albemarle County (2 square miles) drains to Fluvanna County's Lake Monticello. Fortunately for the lake, this drainage area is composed primarily of forest and fields.
If you’re interested in learning details of each of the impairments of waters within the Rivanna River Watershed, click here.
For a map showing waterways within the City of Charlottesville, click here.