Watauga Riverkeeper

The Watauga Riverkeeper is the key protector and watchdog of the Watauga River Basin in Western North Carolina. MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper endeavors to monitor and protect the quality of our region’s waterways through dedicated volunteers and engagement with Watauga and Avery county communities and local and state government. The riverkeeper wants all High Country residents and visitors to enjoy clean waterways free of sediment pollution and supporting a thriving mountain ecosystem.

Andy Hill

Andy Hill

Watauga Riverkeeper

Andy is MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper, protecting and advocating for the Watauga River Basin. Andy has a passion for clean, cold, fishable, drinkable, swimmable water.  As a long time fly fisherman, educator and guide, Andy is intimately familiar with our watershed from headwaters to the tailwater and is passionate about protecting the places we love.

phone (828) 278-9821
envelope andy@mountaintrue.org

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Watauga Riverkeeper Work

The Watauga Riverkeeper carries out the following programs and initiatives to protect the Watauga and Elk Rivers:

  • VWIN Water Quality Monitoring Program where volunteers take 65 water samples monthly from 13 sites located throughout the Watauga River watershed to ensure that our waterways are clean and healthy.
  • Recreation/Access: The Watauga Riverkeeper works with local individuals and groups to improve access to fishing and recreational opportunities on the Watauga River.
  • Stormwater management will occur through the Muddy Water Watch program. Trainings will start this fall for Muddy Water Watch, a citizen-led initiative to reduce the amount of sediment polluting our waterways.
  • SMIE Biomonitoring Program through which the Watauga Riverkeeper will be leading workshops and trainings so that citizen scientists can help determine the presence of certain aquatic insects, which are great indicators of river health.
  • Patroling the watershed for polluting activities and serving as a resource and point of contact for the public on issues related to the Watauga River.

Watauga Riverkeeper News

Asphalt plant victory: You made this happen!

Asphalt plant victory: You made this happen!

Defeating this proposal meant showing up to community meetings, writing public comments and sitting through hours of County Commission hearings – all because you believed in the power of community organizing. Beyond that, this was the second time our community put in so much time and energy to challenge this proposal, and during a pandemic that was already so stressful for all of us. Thank you for being part of this win.

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Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

In a huge win for local aquatic wildlife, the Ward Mill Dam just a few miles from Boone, North Carolina has finally been removed. The first dam was constructed at the location in 1890 and improved upon over the years. The mill complex served the community for generations providing electricity, jobs, firewood and building materials. The dam had been an obstacle for local aquatic wildlife for the past 130 years. Now, native fish such as the tangerine darter and threatened salamanders like the hellbender will be reunited and benefit from a reconnected and improved cold-water aquatic habitat.

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One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

More than one million gallons of sewage overflowed from inadequate wastewater infrastructure into the French Broad River and other area waterways in Western North Carolina according to state data acquired and analyzed by MountainTrue. The data was collected from August 3, 2020 until March 4, 2021 by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Asheville Regional office and is the best available estimate of the amount of sewage that overflows from wastewater infrastructures such as pipes and manhole covers into area rivers and streams across 19 counties of western North Carolina.

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Keep the Watauga and Elk Rivers Clean

You can help keep the Watauga River Basin healthy and clean by volunteering with one of our river cleanups or other events. If you are interested in volunteering, click the button below or email Andy Hill at andy@mountaintrue.org.


Through Muddy Water Watch, volunteers go out hiking, biking, and driving to collect data about sources of sediment pollution. The data is used to work with the US Forest Service to repair damaged roads, culverts, and other sources of sediment to ensure these streams remain healthy.
After nearly a decade of work by WNCA (now MountainTrue), 11th District Congressman Heath Schuler, and many others, the long-proposed North Shore Road along the shore of Fontana Lake was put to rest. The people of Swain County were financially compensated in lieu of the originally promised road, and pristine streams, sensitive aquatic life and public land were preserved.