Reservoirs and Recreation


Kayaking on the South Fork Rivanna River

What is a reservoir?

Simply put, a reservoir is a man-made lake built by constructing a dam in order to supply potable water to people.

These lakes are so scenic, so beautiful that we tend to forget their primary purpose. First and foremost their purpose is to supply people’s essential need for clean, safe, water for drinking, fire protection, manufacturing, agriculture, swimming pools, cups of coffee, and many other uses for our community.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t want folks to enjoy the recreational aspects.

Therefore, we work in close cooperation with various agencies including the City and County Parks and Recreation Departments whose primary role is recreational land use and management. We rely on the city and the county to include responsible stewardship policies and enforcement practices to protect our water supply.

Rivanna’s “Authority”

In general, the local government entities actually own the reservoir and the border around it. We, as the water infrastructure folks at Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, own the assets and lease the rights to the water so we can manage, monitor, treat the water in order to provide it 24/7. We do not make recreational land use decisions.


City Of Charlottesville

  • South Fork
  • Sugar Hollow
  • Ragged Mountain (Ragged Mountain Natural Area is a City park)

Albemarle County

  • Beaver Creek (County park)
  • Totier Creek (County park)
  • Chris Greene Lake is Albemarle County park that serves as an emergency water supply.

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

Owns the water rights or legal right to manage, monitor, treat, and ultimately provide the water to the community that we impound at our reservoirs. We also own all the physical infrastructure that is necessary to do that (i.e the pipes, treatment plants, intake towers, dams, gauges, etc). We also own  the North Rivanna River intake and Lickinghole Basin (a stormwater basin).



Totter Park located near Scottsville in Albemarle County, Va. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff

Totier Park located near Scottsville in Albemarle County, Va. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff

Reservoir Recreations

It is important to remember that you are recreating in a water supply and to follow the rules written into the Albemarle County code and the Charlottesville City Code.

If you’d like to see these rules changed based on your recreational needs, contact your local Parks and Recreation department or your local officials who help create public policy:

County Parks and Recreation at 434-296-5844
City Parks and Recreation at 434-970-3260



Swimming is not allowed in our water supply reservoirs. This includes pets.


Fishing is allowed in all of our reservoirs. Our reservoirs are stocked with various fish by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Fishing licenses are issued by Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Hiking and Running

Hiking and running are allowed on the trails.


Biking is allowed at Sugar Hollow on the road, but not on the trails or in the National Park. The City Council and Albemarle County Board of Supervisors are currently discussing (as of March 3, 2017) opening the Ragged Mountain Natural Area to hiking and running. When a decision is reached, the website will be updated.

Bird Watching

Bird watching is allowed in and around our reservoirs.


Kayakers and Paddle Boarders at South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating

If you want to kayak, canoe, or boat, those water activities are allowed at South Fork Rivanna, Ragged Mountain, Beaver Creek, and Totier Creek without a special permit. Note: Boats are not allowed at Sugar Hollow due to safety concerns.

NO GAS-POWERED BOATS are allowed at any of our reservoirs from a pollution standpoint. MTBE was a gas additive popular in the 80s that was found especially harmful in groundwater. Many rules were created to protect water from this pollutant.

Paddle Boarding

Paddle-boarding is allowed at Beaver Creek, South Fork, Totier Creek, and Ragged Mountain.

Other activities

Hunting, trapping, littering, dumping, and loudspeakers are prohibited.


Reporting Issues


To report a problem in our watershed, like storm drain dumping or stream pollution, go to the Rivanna Stormwater Education Partnership or call 434-975-0224 OR Rivanna Conservation Alliance ( 434 – 97-RIVER.

Dead Fish

If you see dead fish in the reservoir, call Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at (804) 367-1000.


If the trash cans are overflowing at one of the parks, contact County Parks and Recreation at 434-296-5844; or City Parks and Recreation at 434-970-3260 or your local officials who help create public policy. Charlottesville City Trails: 434-970-3656.

Harmful Algae

If you see what appears to be a harmful algae bloom, call the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality HAB Task Force Hotline: 1-888-238-6154.

Safety Concerns

If you see kids trying to cross the ice during the winter months then call 911. Depending on the jurisdiction, City or County police will respond. Other safety concerns requiring immediate response should also be directed toward your local police department.


Additional Resources

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Shenandoah National Park