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.

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

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

What Recreation is allowed at Reservoirs that are also City and County Parks?

What is your favorite water-related activity in and around our reservoirs?

Whatever your preference, we ask folks to remember that they are recreating in a water supply and to follow these rules written into the Albemarle County code and the Charlottesville City Code.


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 on trails is allowed.

Biking and Running at Ragged Mountain Natural Area are under discussion by City Council and Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (as of March 3, 2017) , but are allowed at Sugar Hollow on the road (not on the trails or in the National Park).

Bird Watching

Bird watching is allowed in and around our reservoirs. In fact in the Spring an enthusiastic birder called to thank our staff for being sensitive around a rare bird couple who made a pit stop at Ragged Mountain after a big storm – they spotted two Black Scoter ducks.


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: No boats are 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, loudspeakers are prohibited. Check below for questions or concerns.

If you’d like to see these rules changed based on your recreational needs, we urge you to contact your local Parks and Recreation department: County Parks and Recreation at 434-296-5844; City Parks and Recreation at 434-970-3260 or your local officials who help create public policy. Charlottesville City Trails: 434-970-3656.

Quick Links:

State Agencies

Issues That May Arise In and Around the Reservoirs

Who Owns What?

We hope that helps clarify our role when it comes to water supply and recreation. We are committed to providing clean, safe, drinking water 24/7 and to being responsible stewards of the water resources and the watershed surrounding it.

We hope you enjoy!

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