Fish Passage Projects

The job of our rivers naturally is to move the mountains to the sea. Dams and other barriers like culverts and low-water crossing on public and private roads can disrupt natural stream flow, disconnect fish and wildlife habitats and impair water quality. Removing unnatural barriers and disruptions is particularly important for conserving our waterways, restoring aquatic habitat and creating a healthy stream flow.

PEC is working to improve stream health and connectivity by removing or replacing culverts in the upper Rappahannock watershed with more wildlife-friendly versions. So far, we have reconnected nearly 20 miles of stream habitat for the brook trout and other native wildlife!

Interested in pursuing stream restoration on your property? Contact for more information.

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A Collaborative Effort

PEC is leading a regional initiative of conservation organizations, federal agencies, and the Virginia Department of Transportation to restore and reconnect habitat for the Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and other aquatic organisms in headwater streams that border Shenandoah National Park.

Over the past decade, PEC has identified physical barriers that are preventing brook trout and other aquatic species from moving through these headwater systems. Moving from analysis to action, PEC has prioritized projects based on habitat connectivity and water quality improvement and pursued a series of pilot projects that have successfully set the stage for scaling up a more broad-based stream and habitat restoration strategy along the eastern side of the Blue Ridge. 

About the Brook Trout

The brook trout is an indicator species that depends on cold, clean water and thrives best in free-flowing headwater streams. Physical barriers, such as undersized road-stream crossings, can impede fish passage by blocking upstream migration to spawning, better food and coldwater refuge during warmer summer months.

Brook trout in hand over stream

PEC recognizes that restoring trout habitat goes beyond protecting charismatic species like the brook trout, American eel, and other freshwater organisms; our work also improves water quality and climate resiliency, which benefits the larger Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Additionally, the mountain communities and families that reside in this region have deep ties to this iconic fish, and anglers travel long distances to fish these pristine mountain streams.

Crossing Survey

PEC partnered with Trout Unlimited in 2013 to survey barriers to aquatic organism movement in Rappahannock, Madison, Greene and Albemarle counties. The surveys were made possible from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Fish Passage Program. An online map of the survey data can be found at

Of the 141 road-stream crossings assessed:

  • Nearly half provided no or reduced passage;
  • 75 were owned by VDOT; and
  • 66 were in private ownership.
map of trout streams surveyed with crossings indicated
Map by Watsun Randolph/PEC
A Fish Runs Through It

A Fish Runs Through It

As the fog broke on a brisk November morning in Madison County, more than three dozen people arrived at the Whiteoak Canyon trailhead ready to celebrate the new, 35-foot, open-span bridge over Cedar Run. They …
Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead

Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead

SYRIA, VA: The new 35-foot span bridge across Cedar Run offers hikers and nature-loving community members improved access to the popular Whiteoak Canyon trailhead and opening up three miles of stream habitat to native fish for …
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New bridge improves access to one of Shenandoah Park’s most unique trails

A new 35-foot span bridge across Cedar Run opened this week, offering hikers and nature-loving community members improved access to the popular Whiteoak Canyon trailhead and opening up three miles of stream habitat to native …
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Stream crossing projects aim to ease passage for fish, and people

The Piedmont Environmental Council and Virginia Department of Transportation are collaborating to reconnect brook trout habitat and improve flood resiliency and public road-stream crossings in the Virginia Piedmont …
Free Flow

Free Flow

PEC has taken on the work of restoring local rivers by removing culverts and low-water crossings that can be roadblocks to stream health. By replacing these barriers on roads and driveways with fish- friendly designs, …
handbook cover page

Eastern Brook Trout Monitoring Protocols for Headwater Streams in Virginia’s Piedmont

During the summer of 2017, PEC Fellowship participants Dana Ek and Callee Manna put together this stream monitoring guidebook as part of their final practicum project. The guidebook is meant to serve as a reference …
Robinson River

Robinson River

SYRIA, VA. At the Robinson River, 350 linear feet of stream was restored to its natural channel, stabilizing banks from erosion, and ultimately removing sediment from going downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. In all, 5.3 …
Sprucepine Branch

Sprucepine Branch

HUNTLY, VA: Recent work at Sprucepine Branch reconnected 2 miles of stream, as a set of culverts were removed from a private driveway, and replaced with a bridge. PEC coordinated with the U.S. Fish and …

Restoring Connections – By Eliminating Barriers

Culverts, low-water crossings and linear infrastructure (i.e. pipelines, highways) can serve as disruptions to healthy stream flow …

PEC has worked to build robust partnerships with a diverse set of agencies, non-profits, private consultants and funders in order to propel this initiative forward: Friends of the Rappahannock, Trout Unlimited, US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), VA Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NWFW), Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), VA Department of Forestry (DOF), Nimick Forbesway Foundation, PEC’s Krebser Fund for Conservation in Rappahannock County, The Campbell Foundation, Shenandoah National Park (SNP), Shenandoah Streamworks, Ecosystem Services LLC, VA Department of Transportation (VDOT), private landowners and many others.