Purpose and Introduction

The purpose of this study is to identify any opportunities for restoration and community education on the Tye River. The Tye River is located in Nelson County, Virginia and its headwaters are located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because this natural resource provides recreation, sustenance and aesthetic appeal to the residents of Nelson County, it is important that the river be monitored for its quality and sustainability. Although this study is not intended to determine specific water quality issues nor the actual biology of the wildlife in and around the river, it is intended to identify the opportunities for future research to gain a more narrow perspective on particular water quality and bank stability issues facing the Tye River. This study is also to be one of the many beginning steps to bring more community awareness to the abundance of natural resources in Nelson County. The Tye River is home to many different wildlife species, community establishments and is a reliance for many agricultural practices, which was observed as a major land use along the river. Because these three factors are important in a rural community such as Nelson County, it is imperative that the residents and visitors alike are able to gain a better understanding of the many benefits and offerings of the Tye River.

The development of this project was based on a visual survey. The Tye River was observed by boat where navigable and on foot where the water level and stream bed construct prohibited boat travel. Waypoints were recorded using a GPS navigation system and descriptive data was recorded about the documented waypoint. These data are attached as spreadsheet to this report.

The Rockfish Valley Foundation (RVF), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and Friends of the Rockfish Watershed(FORW) are both riverkeeper organizations in Nelson County, Virginia. The Rockfish Valley Foundation aims to “preserve the natural, historical, ecological and agricultural resources of the Rockfish Valley…” all of which are key components of Nelson County. Furthermore, the Friends of the Rockfish Watershed intend to “safeguard the health, scenic beauty and cultural heritage of the Rockfish River and its watershed.” They propose to do this by watershed education for the public. Both organizations have been successful in providing public education in environmental stewardship. Although RVF and FORW are based in the Rockfish Valley, they are adamant about the protection of all of Nelson County’s many precious resources. One of the County’s most valued resources is the Tye River. No organization has been established to oversee the health and state of the Tye River. Both RVF and FORW are interested in incorporating the Tye River into their preservation efforts.

In June 2009 The Rockfish Valley Foundation received funding from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund to perform a visual survey of the Tye River. The RVF has provided many tools, tangible and educational, to aid the Tye River study. The FORW’s members of the board were of immediate service to provide maps, river education and suggestions for the final report. The Nelson County Extension Service was also available as a resource and assisted greatly with the proposal to receive grant funding. The study was performed by two University of Georgia graduates and Nelson County residents. The basis of this study is to identify any possible opportunities for restoration or future studies on the river and also to provide feedback as to the current state of the river. The history, the current state and the opportunity for future analysis of the Tye River are outlined in this project. The following report contains background information on some of the most prominent issues facing the Tye River. Included in this report are summaries of data collection from state government agencies as recent as 2009 to provide a baseline health assessment of the river. However, constant monitoring and future studies would present more accurate information to the public concerning the health of the river. Recommendations for future studies and for public education are included throughout this report. The RVF and FORW can be contacted regarding this study and they can also offer more resources for obtaining further information on the Tye River.

The Tye River begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Montebello, VA and it flows into the James River at Norwood, VA. The James River spans the width of the state of Virginia making the Tye River an important tributary to the communities along the James. This study began at Lat. N37 50.289/ Lon. W79 01.357. At this point the river flows under a suspension bridge that is part of the Appalachian Trail (AT). This is a very popular spot for tourists, day hikers and of course the many AT through-hikers that pass through in early summer. The reason for beginning at this point was based on accessibility. The upper reaches of the Tye River are difficult to access by boat or by foot. The North Fork has very few developed, residential or agricultural areas. The North Fork was excluded from this study due to accessibility limitations and because it appears to be in no need of immediate attention. However, a study that is focused solely on the North Fork should be considered in the future. Details of this recommendation can be found in the last section of this report. The visual survey extended from the suspension bridge to the confluence of the Tye and James River. Facets of the river that were taken into account were the bank stabilization, significant erosion, buffer zones, the proximity of residential properties and other infrastructure within a close range of the river. The wildlife and general appearance of the river was documented. The data collected provided an initial introduction of the river to the principle investigators. The breadth and depth of the river was not fully explored in this study. The principle investigators have used their knowledge obtained through data collection to research the different aspects of history, water quality and to suggest future research. The following is a report containing background information on some of the most important aspects of the Tye River.