Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)

Publication Date



Riparian buffers (land bordering streams) are important zones for maintaining water quality and providing critical habitat. Rappahannock County has a rural landscape that presents the opportunity to record baseline conditions of riparian buffers. This study involved analyzing a small drainage area in the Upper Thornton River watershed to offer guidance on targeting riparian buffer restoration. Aerial imagery from the Virginia Base Mapping Program (VGIN, 2002) was used to create a digital data layer containing land uses and 100 ft. buffers around the streams. Buffer cover in the riparian buffers was identified as all forested, partially forested or no forest. A brief field assessment was conducted to verify the digital product. Results indicate that in the study area 51% of the riparian lands potentially need some restoration.

Recommendations for riparian buffer restoration include:

• Use digital data layer to identify buffers for restoration and conduct field surveys to assess buffer condition.

• Target areas without fully forested riparian buffers for restoration first. • Plant native species when reforesting buffers.

• Correct detrimental activities in riparian buffers, such as allowing cattle direct access to streams, and unconfined dumpsites.

• Encourage private property owners to restore their riparian buffers through public education and information on incentive programs.

• Protect and restore the riparian buffers and streams located in the Commercial Area delineated in the Rappahannock County Comprehensive Plan.



Rappahannock County - VA, Land use, Geographic Information Systems, Riparian, Buffer Zone

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Funding was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Project number W26GLG- 5265-5855).