The Roanoke River basin contains 9,580 square miles and over 400 miles of rivers, stretching from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia in an east-southeast direction to the Albemarle Sound near Plymouth, North Carolina.
It includes the Roanoke, Dan, Smith, Staunton, Banister, Hyco and Cashie Rivers and numerous other rivers and streams. The Basin includes municipalities such as Danville, Martinsville, Bassett, Moneta, Rocky Mount, Brookneal, Altavista, Lawrenceville, Chatham, Altavista, Roanoke, Salem, Halifax, South Boston and Clarksville in Virginia; and Eden, Mayodan, Reidsville, Yanceyville, Roxboro, Henderson, Warrenton, Gaston, Garysburg, Littleton, Roanoke Rapids, Weldon, Jackson, Rich Square, Scotland Neck, Hamilton, Jamesville, Williamston, Windsor and Plymouth in North Carolina.
The Roanoke River Basin includes the several dams, including Kerr Dam, Hyco Dam, Mayo Dam, Gaston Dam, Roanoke Rapids Dam, Smith Mountain Lake Dam, Leesville Dam, and Philpott Dam and several other impoundments of water. Kerr Dam Reservoir, constructed in the early 1950s for flood control and hydroelectric power generation, is the largest dam in the Roanoke basin system. It, along with upstream Philpott Dam, is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hyco Dam and Reservoir is a Carolina Power & Light project. Smith Mountain and Leesville Dams and Reservoirs are operated by American Electric Power Company. Lake Gaston and Roanoke Rapids Dams and Reservoirs are operated by Virginia Electric Power Company. The Corps of Engineers’ operations at Kerr Dam and Reservoir and Dominion’s operations at Gaston/Roanoke Rapids Dams and Reservoirs are closely coordinated. The Corps also coordinates its operations at the Kerr and Philpott projects.
Roanoke River water is generally considered of good quality, though urban and agricultural runoff are increasing problems. Hyco and Belews Lake retain health advisories for fish consumption for selenium, and Lake Gaston and Roanoke Rapids Lake face problems with aquatic weeds. PCB’s were found in the Staunton River and Dan River upstream of Kerr Lake, resulting in health advisories for fish consumption. Sediment is also a major concern in the basin.