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The North Fork — Virginia’s Next Scenic River

Last year, Friends of the North Fork, Shenandoah County, and Seven Bends State Park picked up on discussions over the benefits of applying for Scenic River status for an 8.8-mile stretch of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, from Chapman’s Landing to the north end of Seven Bends State Park, just downstream from Lupton Road.  Over the summer we sought feedback and guidance from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and in October their Scenic Resources Coordinator, Lynn Crump, joined us for a perfect autumn day on the river for our “assessment float”.

It was beautiful out there, and the wildlife must have known our purpose.  They — bald eagles, great blue and little green herons, scores of fish, white-tailed deer, eastern painted turtles — and an early sparkle of fall colors on the trees, highlighted why we were there.  We could not have had better weather, a finer crew, or a more fulfilling float.  And in the end, we received a formal recommendation from the DCR that this stretch of the North Fork be officially designated a Virginia Scenic River.

There is much to cheer about this, and much to do now to inform our community, all around, that Scenic River status (if ultimately granted following this recommendation) boosts our ability to protect these stretches when neighboring landowners desire protections such as conservation easements.  And it is just as crucial to help everyone know that the program specifically stops short of enacting or even promoting any landowner restrictions or infringements.  The one exception is that anyone submitting an application to build a new dam in the designated section of the river must get approval from the VA General Assembly to do so. This is a win-win for the community, the river, and all the life it supports.

We are thankful to Lynn Crump and the DCR, the Shenandoah Riverkeeper — whose guide, Alan Lehman, helped steer a great day on the water, Seven Bends State Park Chief Ranger Tom Stevens, Seven Bends State Park Education Coordinator Megan Church, John Adamson — our highly esteemed and valued local historian (and extraordinary stand-up canoe paddler), and all who accompanied us on our float.

Together, let’s celebrate that the uniqueness and somewhat-understated-grandeur of the North Fork has formally recommended it for Virginia Scenic River status.