On Saturday, September 16th, Conservation Partners, river lovers, students, and history buffs all got together to get to know the Willis River. This beautiful river flows through Cumberland County, Virginia and is surrounded by magnificent streamside forests and a unique history. In 2008, segments of the Willis River were listed by Virginia’s Clean Water Act as impaired, meaning it was not meeting the state’s water quality standards. With the help of Peter Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, agricultural best management practices (BMPs) were installed throughout the watershed to help reduce pollutant loadings into the Willis River, resulting in the delisting of the river in 2011!

The day began on the banks of the Willis and the James Rivers to learn about trees and vegetation along the banks, the history of the batteaux and lock systems, and how we can play a part in water quality. Cumberland High School Envirothon students gave an introduction to monitoring water quality. The Department of Forestry practiced identification of riparian forest buffer plants and went on a streamside walk. The Virginia Canals & Navigation Society gave a history lesson on canals, navigation, and flash locks along the Willis River.

To end the day, participants had the opportunity to go on a 3.5 mile paddle on the James. This relaxing float started in the Willis River, paddled into the James River, and ended in Cartersville.