As we journey down the Rivanna watching wildlife, it’s good to remember that we are temporary guests in their home. Open your eyes and ears and you will quickly discover the great diversity of creatures, great and small, that live in and along the river. We respect these fellow inhabitants of our planet by watching them from a distance and leaving their home clean as we pass through.

Perhaps the most easily noticeable wildlife are the birds. Great Blue Heron and the smaller Green Heron will be wading the shallow hunting small fish. Belted Kingfisher may be perched on a branch over the river until they take off and fly downriver with their loud, rattling call. Look higher up and you may be treated to the sight of a Bald Eagle or Osprey. Both these fish-eating raptors have moved back to the Rivanna in recent decades as their local populations have recovered from near extinction during the age of DDT. Canada Geese may watch from the shore and several species of duck can surprise you by bursting into flight as you approach.

Looking down into the water or casting a line will reveal the rich fish life in the Rivanna. The fishing for Smallmouth Bass can be quite good on the river. For the casual observer, the most prominent species will be the dramatic Longnose Gar. These prehistoric fish might look scary, but they pose no threat to humans. They like to bask in the sun just below the surface of the river, so they are easily spotted.

Because of their tendency toward nocturnal activity, mammals are the hardest to observe on any given trip. While the Rivanna is home to Beaver, Muskrat, Mink, and Otter, you can count yourself lucky if you spot the latter two!

A concise yet descriptive summary of the Rivanna’s wildlife can be found on the Rivanna Water Trail Map and Guide, published by the Rivanna Conservation Alliance and available for sale from the Rivanna River Company.

Contact us to book a trip with a guide who can help you see and understand the animals and plants along the river!