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Scenic Rivers Program

The program

Misty morning on the riverVirginia Scenic Rivers Program’s intent is to identify, designate and help protect rivers and streams that possess outstanding scenic, recreational, historic and natural characteristics of statewide significance for future generations. This program is managed by the state and should not be confused with the federal Department of the Interior’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Program. One of the program’s strengths is the partnership forged between citizens, local governments and the state. This partnership begins in the evaluation phase and continues through and after the designation process.

Scenic river designations result from initiatives from partnerships of local groups, local governments, state agencies and the Virginia General Assembly. In addition to existing designated state scenic rivers, other river segments have been deemed worthy of further study. See the Virginia Outdoors Plan for more detail. You may also view this slideshow for more details about the program.

Readying for a river trekThe program's focus is on enhancing the conservation of scenic rivers and their corridors. State and federal agencies must take into consideration how projects and programs affect state scenic rivers. DCR is ready to help localities develop planning tools for their use in enhancing the conservation and protection of scenic river corridors. Ultimately, the locality decides what to institute.

The program’s enabling legislation is the Virginia Scenic Rivers Act of 1970, §10.1-400.

Benefits of designation

  • Provides opportunities to consider scenic and other resources in planning and design.
  • Focuses Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) reviews of hydro or related project proposals.
  • Encourages closer review of projects and proposals by state agencies and localities.
  • Requires General Assembly authorization for dams.
  • Provides for continued existing appropriate riparian land uses.
  • Allows for project review and monitoring of designated river segments by governor-appointed Board of Conservation and Recreaton and DCR.
  • Provides framework for appointment of a local Scenic River Advisory Committee.
  • Provides eligibility for land use tax considerations, if locally adopted.
  • Download What the Designation Does and Does Not Do for more detail.

Designation process

The following steps are taken in the designation of a candidate river segment.

  1. A local governing board asks DCR to study a river segment.
  2. DCR conducts a preliminary study to see if the segment meets minimum criteria. If so, DCR further studies the segment for eligibility.
  3. If deemed eligible, the locality accepts DCR's report and passes a resolution endorsing designation of the qualifying river segment.
  4. The local board has a state legislator sponsor a bill to designate the river segment scenic.

Download A Guide to Citizen Involvement in the Scenic River Designation Process for more detail.

Designation evaluation criteria

  • Stream corridor vegetation
  • Streambed and stream flow modifications
  • Human development of visual corridor
  • Historic features
  • Landscape
  • Quality of fishery
  • Rare, threatened or endangered species
  • Water quality
  • Parallel roads
  • Crossings
  • Special features affecting aesthetics
  • Recreational access
  • Land conservation

More background

Mechanisms for the conservation of river corridors

The commonwealth has various land conservation mechanisms that can be used to protect scenic and water qualities of river corridors. Several are listed below. Click the program link for more details.

Useful river-protection references

For more information, contact Environmental Programs Planner Lynn Crump, lynn.crump@dcr.virginia.gov or 804-786-5054.