Water Models

EnviroScape® Watershed/Nonpoint Source Pollution Model

Surface Water ModelThis water model was purchased by the Rockfish Valley Foundation (RVF) through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Money from the sale of Friend of the Chesapeake license plates is used to fund projects that restore the bay or teach people water quality. Funds are available to governments and nonprofit organizations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which makes up about 60 percent of Virginia’s land base. RVF plans on using this model to promote a better understanding of water pollution here at the center and in Nelson County Schools.

Coming Soon: Groundwater Model.

Rockfish Ranger

smokey_birdsWelcome to the Rockfish Rangers! Below are some frequently asked questions about this exciting new program.

What is a Rockfish Ranger?

The Rockfish Ranger program was created by RVF in January 2014…

Can I become a Rockfish Ranger?

Yes! Anyone can become a Rockfish Ranger by fulfilling one of these requirements:

1. Attend one of our fun events.

2. Walk one of our exciting trails.

3. Visit Camp Rockfish and our Biodiversity Exhibit at our Natural History Center.

Once you have completed one or more of these assignments, you may come to our Natural History Center to pick up your honorary Rockfish Ranger wristband.

What can I do now that I’m a Rockfish Ranger?

Besides boasting to all of your friends, there are plenty of activities to do outside or online:


Visit our new KIP TRACK Trail!

Join us April 5th for the opening of our new exhibit on Biodiversity at our Natural History Center in Nellysford.

Come join us for the Kite Festival on April 13.


Do you like fun web games? Well, here we have collected some of the best internet activities sponsored by some familiar Federal Agencies. Visit the sites below to start a learning adventure!

WebRangers – National Park Service (NPS)

Climate Kids – National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Kids’ Pages – National Institutes of Health (NIH)

BeachKids – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Energy Kids – Energy Information Administration (EIA)


Ranger Wall

2014 – We inducted over 250 children (and some adults) at this year’s Kid*Vention in Charlottesville. If you are a Rockfish Ranger and would like to have your name listed on this page, please email you first name, age, and town where you live to evan.spears@rockfishvalley.org.


*This page is currently under development. Come back soon for more updates!*

Geology Trail

The Rockfish Valley Geology Trail was completed in 2011. It offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains as it follows the bank of the South Fork Rockfish River. You can access the trail from our Route 151 parking lot which is two miles south of Nellysford.

Click here to view the interactive trail brochure.

View Larger Map

“More than one billion years ago a mountain chain,  the Grenville Mountains,  formed about where the Appalachians stand today.  This occurred as several brittle tectonic plates joined together to form a supercontinent known AS Rodinia.  As the edge of proto North America was squeezed by a continental plate (now postulated to have been a piece of present day South America) molten rock from the mantle rose into the crust, cooled slowly, and formed what would become the coarse-grained granites and gneisses of the basement rocks, those rocks that underlie all others.

Later, some 600 million years ago, after erosion had exposed the granites at the surface, this supercontinent would rift or break apart.  As it did so, molten rock from the mantle once again rose, this time SPILLING ONTO  to the surface, through cracks in the stretched and fractured basement rock.  Thick flows of black basalt flooded the region from CENTRAL VIRGINIA up into southern Pennsylvania.  With time and subsequent mountain building events this basalt would be changed or metamorphosed to greenstone now found up on the slopes of the Blue Ridge just to the west of here.

The ocean that was created in the widening basin as Rodinia rifted apart opened, then closed.  THREE HUNDRED million years ago a new supercontinent, Pangaea, was formed as continental plates once again COLLILDED.  This time Africa  collided with the eastern edge of proto North America.  Again, a great mountain chain was formed where the two continental plates collided.  The Appalachians, which include the Blue Ridge, were born.  As that ocean closed, collisions INVOLVING SMALLER LAND MASSES  accreting to the eastern edge of North America created the stress that ultimately formed the Rockfish Valley high-strain zone.  Later, 200 million years ago, Pangaea rifted apart, as  Rodinia HAD DONE long before.  The Atlantic Ocean filled the gap as Africa drifted away from North America.  Slowly the majestic Appalachian Mountains were eroded down to a gently rolling topography.  As they were later resurrected by ISOSTATIC uplift, tough resistant rock formed mountains and softer and broken rock, valleys.

STREAMS OFTEN FLOW WHERE ROCKS HAVE BEEEN FAULTED AND FRACTURED. The Rockfish River runs in one of these fault zones.  The wide flood plain of the river speaks of large volumes of water carrying the weathered products of the mountains to the James River and then to the Atlantic.  As the river seeks equilibrium, it wanders back and forth in the floodplain cutting  new streambeds and filling old channels, leaving terraces behind.

The weathering of these mountains may be gradual, grain by grain, as a result of   physical and chemical processes.   Often it can be catastrophic as was the case in 1969 when Hurricane Camille struck.  It has been estimated that 50% of denudation or wearing down of the mountains may occur in these frightening events that may occur every two or three thousand years at any one location.  Hundreds of debris flows or landslides occurred in this part of Nelson County.  Everything from the underlying rock upwards, soil, water, rocks, vegetation, slid down the mountainsides at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour destroying everything in its path.  More than one hundred people lost their lives in the tragic event.

Greater detail of these events is available at the kiosk at the trailhead.  Knowledge of that story helps to better appreciate how this beautiful valley came into being.”

-Chip Morgan

New Exhibit at the Natural History Center! “Rocks to Racing” Opens April 6th, 2013!

Rocks to Racing connects rocks, water and geology to Moonshine and NASCAR! The exhibit which comes from the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Virginia ABC and the Bedford Museum makes the connection between water and rocks and the local geology to Moonshine and Nascar.

Yes, there is a connection!

The center does not charge an admission but donations are appreciated. The Rockfish Valley Foundation also offers walking trails along the Rockfish River with wonderful birding, Spruce Creek Park and the Natural History Center. Splendid views of the Blue Ridge and all within a mile or so of wineries, breweries, the cidery and restaurants. Spring is here and its time to check out the new geocache trail along the Rockfish River.

The Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center is an affiliate of the Virginia
Museum of Natural History located in Martinsville VA.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History, VA ABC Board and Bedford Museum opens April 6 at 10 am; thereafter the center is open 10 am until 4 pm Saturday and Sunday and by special arrangements.

Hurricane Camille and its impact described and illustrated

Hurricane Camille and its impact described and illustrated

Please imagine that the slide scars represent the headwaters of the S. Fork of the Rockfish River up near Wintergreen Mountain Village above elevation 3500. The torrential rains loosened the soil, the shrubs and trees. That debris began to wash down the mountain, pulling with it rocks and any other thing in its path. As the flow became larger and reached the upper valley at Beech Grove, it broadened out (represented by the debris chutes) and tore a 40 foot deep trench into the earth where Rt 664 now exists. The build up of water, material, animals, automobiles and everything in its path continued to travel under gravity into the Valley Floor at elevation 1300 and began to fan out to cover the valley (represented by debris fans). This occurred in the middle of the night which found the occupants of the one story house in the flood plain at elevation 900 located beside the river at the existing Rt 151 Bridge asleep in their house. Many people thought the roar of the debris flows was thunder as the sky was filled with lightening. It was not. It was the roar of rocks hitting rocks. This debris flow can be estimated to have travelled at a speed of over 40 miles per hour when it reached the South Rockfish Valley you are looking at. The home, located where you are standing, of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Ewing was destroyed and their bodies recovered nearly 1/2 mile down stream. The Charlottesville Daily Progress printed adjacent photo showing the steps remaining to the house, the roof of the house on the bridge and the devastation of the site. The historic marker located beside Rt 151 recognizes the loss of lives and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Camille in the State of Virginia. It is hard to imagine the loss to the Ewing family. A brother lived in the house across the road and three siblings at ELK HILL, the home on the hill. Each woke the morning of August 20th to see the ghastly site of debris filled, flooded fields and an empty space where the Ewing family had lived and perished.

Please be respectful of this site and honor their memory along with those others lost in the storm of August 19-20, 1969. Thanks you for your visit. To obtain more information, please see the website www.rockfishvalley.org or read the introduction reproduced here from the book entitled Roar of the Heavens (2006) by Stefan Bechtel, a Charlottesville author, which is considered the best presentation of Hurricane Camille.

We are indebted to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (www.cacfonline.org) for its support of this exhibit and the duplication and installation of the Hurricane Camille marker.

++Camille Flow Diagram prepared and available through the courtesy of David Spears, Geologist, Virginia Department of Mines and Minerals.

Peter A. Agelasto III
Rockfish Valley Foundation
434 361 2251
P O Box 235
Nellysford, VA 22958

Other books on Hurricane Camille
Torn Land by Paige and Jerry Simpson 1970
Hurricane Camille – monster storm of the Gulf Coast by Philip D. Hearn 2004
Category 5, the story of Camille by Ernest Zebrowski and Judith A Howard 2005
Roar of the Heavens by Stefan Bechtel 2006