Well, that depends . . .
The health of the river can vary depending on the season, the flow, and many other factors. It can have good days and bad days. Sediment may be very low, but algae could be high. How much of the flow is coming from groundwater at a particular time? Is the groundwater clean? Are there unusual chemicals present? How are they interacting? What’s the water temperature?
There are many variables to be considered.
What we do know:
- Excessive nutrients from polluted runoff–both urban and agricultural–are a major factor in algae growth that impacts water quality and fish habitat
- Sediment from eroding streambanks and other sources clouds the water, clogs streambeds, and can ruin the habitat for fish and other organisms
- Fecal coliform bacteria from failed septic systems and livestock in streams can pose risks to cattle and humans
- Man-made chemicals, known as trace organics, are present in many drinking water supplies. Learn more here.
Thankfully, the North Fork and the entire Shenandoah River are being studied in many, many ways:
- Friends of the North Fork has a Science Committee that directs ongoing monitoring and research efforts
- Dozens of dedicated citizen scientists have been working with our sister organization, Friends of the Shenandoah River, to collect water quality samples twice a month for over 20 years.
- The South River Science team has been looking at the mercury problems on the South Fork for decades.
- The Smith Creek Watershed Partnership involves both restoration and research elements.
- Our organization worked with various partners including the United State Geological Service to study trace organic compounds in the river and their potential role in fish kills.