The Rivanna River, the largest tributary to the upper James River, was named for Queen Anne, as it was the custom in early Virginia history to name streams for royalty. Its headwaters originate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia, in both Albemarle and Greene counties. The river meanders through the City of Charlottesville and stretches south through Fluvanna County, joining with the James River at Columbia. The confluence of the North and South forks, just upstream from Darden Towe, forms the Rivanna’s mainstem, a total of 50 miles in length. The 766 square miles of watershed is home to a variety of terrestrial and aquatic species, including the rare and endangered James Spinymussel (Pleurobema collina). Remarkably, sixty-five percent of the Rivanna Watershed is forested, which helps control pollution.
Historically, the banks of the Rivanna River were home to the Monacan Indian Tribe. With the establishment of the European settlements, the Rivanna became an essential resource for early agricultural activity. Thomas Jefferson enhanced the river’s usefulness by improving navigation, in large measure to accommodate the transport of wheat and tobacco from Monticello and other regional farms. For more on the Rivanna River’s history, please read Mr. Jefferson’s River: The Rivanna by Minnie Lee McGehee and William E. Trout III, (2001).