Where the Water Goes

Goose Creek: near the coiled western-most reach of the Roanoke

I’m finding threads all over my computer that if pulled, would lead someplace maybe worth going–digital scraps, memos, and saved pointers to all sorts of things I’m interested in pursuing but mostly never will, or am increasingly feeling I’m the only one who gives a rodent’s rump about such geo-eco-trivia.

This screen shot of the Roanoke River drainage came after my two days spent on Rock Castle Creek, when I was wondering where the water goes and how it gets there and about what it sees along the way.

Turns out, the water from Goose Creek meets the water from Rock Castle Creek since the Roanoke and the Dan rivers find each other at what today is Kerr Reservoir and once was an undammed confluence of two sizable rivers. I wonder if there are any pictures of those two rivers flowing together before the dam was built–in what year? More digging required.

So what? I don’t know how to put this factoid in global perspective except that we start understanding and caring about world water by knowing our own watersheds.

The USGS Name Information Service (GNIS) is a good place to start. Just type in the creek or river closest to you for a map. Follow it to its end. Amazing how many people never think about and don’t know where the water comes from, or where it goes.

Here’s the GNIS map for the Dan River just so you can see what a river map looks like.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I am a huge advocate of people knowing there watershed address. Helps one get in touch with their immediate natural surroundings. Too bad the Postal Service wouldn’t get on board, so to speak.


  2. Great links Fred. Some of my ancestors settled on the Dan River in the 1740s and also on the Roanoke River later.