Get the Cattle Out Campaign


Shenandoah Riverkeeper has identified 73 herds of cattle with direct access to the North Fork, South Fork, and mainstem Shenandoah River. A seemingly harmless or even healthy activity for the animals, cattle with direct river access cause tremendous damage to river banks and overall river health.

When cows enter the river their sharp hooves disturb sediment, upsetting delicate ecosystems. Once in the water, they deposit their waste directly into the river, posing serious health risks for thousands of recreational users downstream. Veterinarians also report that river water can actually pose health risks for the animal as well, versus clean drinking supplies from well or spring water.

We have sent five rounds of letter to landowners of the 73 herds of cattle with access to the Shenandoah River. Roughly 36 landowners have fenced their cattle out or made other changes to practices eliminating problems associated with cattle access.

Goal: 100% Cattle Exclusion. To create a cattle-free Shenandoah, we work directly with herd owners and the State of Virginia to support fencing projects and cost-share programs.

cattle in the shenandoah
Despite the availability of 100% state and federal funding for removal, a number of farmers still fail to keep their cattle out of the river.
cattle in river
A herd of cows stand and urinate in the South Fork as a group of boaters and tubers approach near Bentonville.
riverbank disturbance by cattle
Riverbank disturbance by cattle causing erosion