Roanoke Logperch

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Roanoke Logperch

Percina rex

ListedAugust 18, 1989
FamilyPercidae (Perch)
DescriptionLarge darter, green above, yellowish white below; marked with dark patches, small saddles, and oval side markings.
HabitatPools and riffles with clear bottoms.
FoodAquatic insect larvae.
ReproductionSpawns in April and May.
ThreatsWater pollution, low stream flow.


The Roanoke logperch is a large darter that reaches a length of about 5.5 in (14 cm). It has an elongated cylindrical or slab-sided body with a complete lateral line. It has a dark green back, greenish yellow sides, and a white to yellowish belly. The sides and back are marked with numerous dark patches and distinct small saddles. It has oval markings on its side that are usually separated from the upper markings.


The usual food of the Roanoke logperch is aquatic insect larvae. Individuals live for five to six years and become sexually mature at age four. Spawning occurs in April or May in deep runs over gravel.


During the winter the Roanoke logperch inhabits deep pools where it usually finds shelter under boulders. In spring and summer, adults occupy gravel runs and riffles while juveniles gather in slower runs and shallow pools with clean sand bottoms.


The Roanoke logperch was discovered in 1888 in the Roanoke River, near Roanoke, Virginia. It has been found only in the Roanoke River drainage (including tributaries) in south central Virginia and the Notoway River drainage in southeast Virginia.

Today, small populations of the Roanoke log-perch inhabit rivers and streams in the two drainages of its historic range. In the Roanoke drainage, the largest and healthiest population occurs in the upper Roanoke River (Roanoke and Montgomery Counties) from within the City of Roanoke upstream into the North and South Forks and Tinker Creek. A scattered population occurs in the Pigg River in Pittsylvania and Franklin Counties and in Big Chestnut Creek, a tributary of the Pigg, in Franklin County. An extremely small population inhabits a 2.5-mi (4-km) section of the Smith River in Patrick County, upstream of Philpott Reservoir, and Town Creek, a tributary of the Smith River in Henry County.

In the Notoway River drainage, the Roanoke log-perch is found in a 32-mi (51.5-km) reach of the river in Sussex County and in Stony Creek, a tributary in Dinwiddle and Sussex Counties. The population in this drainage is believed to be less than that in the Pigg River.


The main threat to the Roanoke logperch is degradation of the water quality. Expanding urban and industrial development around Roanoke has a growing impact on the largest remaining population. Urban runoff and a variety of nonpoint-source pollutantssuch as silt, oil, fertilizer, and toxic chemicalsare a growing threat to the species.

In addition, several proposed projects could have an adverse effect on this fish. The West Roanoke County Water Supply Project is intended to provide for the future needs of the county by taking water from the river. This could result in a low water flow for a 7-mi (11.3-km) section of the river, which is excellent logperch habitat. Low flow periods could possibly expose riffles, increase the water temperature during the summer and fall, and increase the concentration of pollutants while decreasing the amount of dissolved oxygen. Modifications to the original proposal may lessen some of the impacts to logperch habitat.

Conservation and Recovery

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the Upper Roanoke Flood Control Project, which would modify the river's channel within the city limits. Even if efforts are made to avoid damage to logperch habitat, some adverse effects are expected.

The National Park Service has proposed construction of a Roanoke River Parkway. While this project is still in an early planning stage and its impact on the logperch cannot yet be evaluated, any road construction adjacent to the river is a cause for concern. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor all three of these projects to ensure that conservation of the Roanoke logperch is considered.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
300 Westgate Center Dr.
Hadley, Massachusetts 01035-9589
Telephone: (413) 253-8200
Fax: (413) 253-8300

Chesapeake Bay Ecological Services Field Office
177 Admiral Cochrane Dr.
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-7307
Telephone: (410) 573-4500
Fax: (410) 263-2608


Burkhead, N. M. 1983. "Ecological Studies of Two Potentially Threatened Fishes (the Orangefin Madtom, Noturus gilberti and the Roanoke Log-perch, Percina rex) Endemic to the Roanoke River Drainage." Report to Wilmington District Corps of Engineers, Wilmington.

Burkhead, N. M. 1986. "Potential Impact of the West County Reservoir Project on Two Endemic Rare Fish and the Aquatic Biota of the Upper Roanoke River, Roanoke County, Virginia." Report to Roanoke County Public Facilities Department, Roanoke.

Jenkins, R. E. 1979. "Freshwater and Marine Fishes."In Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals of Virginia. Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia.

Simonson, T. D., and R. J. Neves. 1986. "A Status Survey of the Orangefin Madtom (Noturus gilberti) and Roanoke Logperch (Percina rex). " Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fish-eries, Richmond, Virginia.