The Roanoke River is a river in southern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina in the United States, 410 mi (660 km) long.A major river of the southeastern United States, it drains a largely rural area of the coastal plain from the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains southeast across the Piedmont to Albemarle Sound.
An important river throughout the history of the United States, it was the site of early settlement in the Virginia Colony and the Carolina Colony. Most of its upper course in Virginia between the City of Roanoke and Clarksville is known as the Staunton River. It is impounded along much of its middle course to form a chain of reservoirs.
In 2011, American Rivers named the Roanoke (Staunton) River the 3rd Most Endangered River in the country. It earned this position due to the possibility of uranium mining on one of its tributaries at the Coles Hill Uranium Deposit near Danville, Virginia.
The river has its headwaters in the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia at Lafayette in Montgomery County where the North Fork and South Fork of the river merge. The North Fork, approximately 30 mi (50 km) long, rises between two mountain ridges and flows initially southwest, then loops back to the northeast.The South Fork, approximately 20 mi (30 km) long, rises in several streams in the mountains on the border of Floyd, Roanoke, and Montgomery counties and flows generally north, joining the North Fork from the south.
The river is impounded twice in succession in the Piedmont of southwestern Virginia downstream from Roanoke to form the Smith Mountain Lake and Leesville Lake reservoirs. Farther downstream in southern Mecklenburg County along the North Carolina border, the river is impounded to form the expansive Kerr Lake.
In northeastern North Carolina, 3 mi (5 km) west of Roanoke Rapids, the river is impounded to form the Lake Gaston reservoir, which stretches upstream into Virginia to the John H. Kerr Dam, and is impounded a final time to form Roanoke Rapids Lake.