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North River

North River originates high up in the mountains of National Forest within Augusta County. It exits public land near the town of Stokesville and winds its way through farmland all the way to its confluence with South River, which forms the South Fork Shenandoah River. North River is an extremely diverse fishery. In its headwaters you can find water cold enough to support trout and two separate impoundments. There are also numerous stocked trout areas available. Within the downstream sections the water warms and lends itself more toward warmwater species like smallmouth bass, sunfish and rock bass.

Maps & Directions

Float Trips

Bridgewater to Mount Crawford

This is an average float of 3.5 miles, characterized by gentle riffles and rolling farmland. The substrate is mostly made up of bedrock, so the fish habitat is not overly dynamic. Target the deeper pools and runs for the best opportunity to catch fish. This float can get very low in the summer, so it is best to paddle it in the spring during higher flows. The water runs cooler, so anglers may run into a few stray trout, good numbers of fall fish and rock bass, as well as decent smallmouth. The secluded feel of this float trip makes it worthwhile to try on a warm spring day. At the put in, you may want to try to paddle up closer to the dam. Quality fishing can be had within this short stretch of North River. A few stray Pike can be encountered within the deeper parts of the pool.


Warmwater Fishing

The river harbors good numbers of smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish, rock bass, fallfish and even a few largemouth bass from the dam in Bridgewater downstream to the confluence with the South River in Port Republic. Anglers might also catch bluegill, green sunfish, channel catfish, carp, white sucker, or black crappie while exploring the river. Within the headwaters, anglers should also try Elkhorn Lake which has good populations of Largemouth Bass, Bluegill Sunfish and Channel Catfish. As well as Staunton Dam, which has the same species with the addition of a few Northern Pike. Good bank fishing access can also be found at Wildwood Park within the town of Bridgewater.

Trout Fishing

There are six separate sections of North River that fall under different trout management programs and are managed with different regulations. They are listed in order from the very headwaters downstream to Natural Bridge.

  1. Within the upper most reaches (upstream of Elkhorn Lake) there is a strong native Brook Trout population.
  2. Also upstream of Elkhorn Lake, there is a general stocked trout water (North River Upper).
  3. Elkhorn Lake is also a part of the stocked trout program.
  4. Downstream of Elkhorn there is special regulation trout water called North River Delayed Harvest, that extends to Staunton Dam.
  5. Downstream of Staunton Dam there is a second general stocked trout water called North River Gorge.
  6. At Natural Bridge Park there is a general stocked trout water.

Each of these areas have great camping opportunities and restroom facilities are available.

Biologist Reports

  • None available at this time.
  • Regulations

    • Smallmouth Bass: 5 per day. No Length Limit.
    • Largemouth Bass: 5 per day. No length Limit
    • Sunfish: 50 per day. No length Limit
    • Trout: 6 per day. Minimum size 7 inches
    • National Forest Permit required when fishing North River Upper, Elkhorn Lake, North River Tailwaters, Staunton Dam, and North River Gorge.
    • Trout license required October 1 – June 15 for North River Upper, Elkhorn Lake, North River Delayed Harvest, North River Gorge, and North River Natural Chimneys.

    Facilities, Amenities, and Nearby Attractions

    There are several campgrounds available within the North River watershed. The North River Campground and Todd Lake Recreation Area Campground are both good choices. Natural Chimneys Park also has camping available. Restrooms are available at all campgrounds as well as at Elkhorn Lake and Staunton Dam. Numerous handicapped accessible fishing piers are available at Elkhorn Lake.

    More Information

    For additional information, contact:

    Virginia DWR
    Fisheries Biologist
    517 Lee Highway
    Verona, VA 24482
    Phone: 540-248-9360