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The River Realm’s unique place on the global map has a lot to do with what makes it special. The waves roll gently onto the shores here. Evening sunsets are alive with birds, bugs, and leaping fish. Plates overflow with rich flavors and locally sourced seafood, produce and wine.  The environment here makes for the perfect setting for relaxation, good meals, and adventure. Let’s see what’s so special about where in the world the River Realm is…

The Waterways

We have 465 miles of shoreline thanks to the Rappahannock River, which carves through the lands here. This river comes down from the Blue Ridge Mountains and empties out into the Chesapeake Bay. This special collision of waters is what makes it special. The unique blend of fresh and salt water makes the perfect home for fish, mollusks, and crabs to flourish. 

This blend is called brackish water.  It’s a special balanced fusion of salt water and fresh water. It is saltier than fresh water, but not as salty as seawater. Here in the River Realm, an estuary forms as a result. An estuary, by definition, “is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it.” Estuaries, therefore, create a transition zone between river environments and maritime environments known as ecotone. 

See it for yourself: Get out on the water! Read our blog post about chartering boats, kayaking, and more.  Click here. 

Under the Water

Now that we understand what makes our waterways special, we can understand more about who calls it home. Crabs, striped bass, flounder, sugar toads, and, of course, oysters, are some of our most common underwater inhabitants. These creatures love our brackish waters and they work as a team to flourish together. It all starts with the oysters, who love to nestle and cluster together to create communities on beds or reefs. 

These reefs grow and grow and become a barrier that slows the impact of waves. As a result, they make a great home for other creatures who are looking for calm waters to mate and nurture their offspring.  

Oysters also help keep the waters fresh and vibrant for other marine life. One oyster filters 50 gallons of water in a single day. Oysters drink up the water around them, and as they do this, they remove excess sediment, pollution, and algae from the water. That keeps the water in good shape for other sea creature friends, like crabs. 

Many people believe crabs come from other areas of the East Coast. In fact, most Chesapeake Bay crabs breed here in the River Realm because of our ideal water salinity. In 2015, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said: “If anyone from Maryland is listening, I want to make this perfectly clear: All the crabs are born here in Virginia and they end up, because of the current, being taken [to Maryland]. So really, they should be Virginia crabs.”

Try the food yourself: We have many favorite restaurants who bring the fresh flavors of the waters to life. Read our blog post about our favorite seafood dishes. Click here. 

On the Shore

Our shallow shores lead to bountiful shorelines and forests. Osprey, herons, eagles, gulls, and ducks are a few of the flying creatures who call the River Realm home. On foot, you’ll also meet white-tailed deer, turkeys, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, moles, and reptiles. They’re all friendly call places like Belle Isle State Park home. 

The terroir of the River Realm is also a welcome foundation for fresh produce and wines to grow. Paul and Katie Krop of Good Luck Cellars planted seeds many years ago in an  old sand and gravel mine, rich in nutrients. Today, Good Luck Cellars produces award winning wines in Kilmarnock as does Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington. 

Many farmers also take advantage of the rich soils here. Dug In Farms and Kellum Farms & Seafood sell items from a variety of the local farmers. Dug In Farms has a farm stand ​just off Route 3 and Kellum’s product store and stand is jut outside of Irvington. Herbs, squash, corn, tomatoes, apples, potatoes, and more are some of the bounty they share grown right here in the River Realm. You can also take home Dug in Farms Kickles, Baby Beets and Dilly Beans, all packaged up in honor of 50 Years of Love in Virginia

Enjoy the Shore

To get to know our inland wildlife, come visit one of our campgrounds! We have a full camping guide to the River Realm. Click here. 

Where in the world are you visiting from?

We would love to know! Share your travel story on Instagram. Tag @virginiasriverrrealm in your photos and share where you come from, why you visit the area, and what you discovered on your most recent trip!

Discover Your Perfect River Realm Adventure!

Are you the type that loves an outdoor adventure? Or are you looking to spend quality time with your loved ones splashing along our shorelines?

Discover your perfect path for exploring the wonders of Virginia’s River Realm.