Nine approaches to recover viral RNA from environmental silty sediments were newly developed and compared to quantify RNA viruses in sediments using molecular methods. Four of the nine approaches employed direct procedures for extracting RNA from sediments (direct methods), and the remaining five approaches used indirect methods wherein viral particles were recovered before RNA extraction. A direct method using an SDS buffer with EDTA to lyse viral capsids in sediments, phenol-chloroform-isoamyl alcohol to extract RNA, isopropanol to concentrate RNA, and magnetic beads to purify RNA resulted in the highest rate of recovery (geometric mean of 11%, with a geometric standard deviation of 0.02; n = 7) of poliovirus 1 (PV1) inoculated in an environmental sediment sample. The direct method exhibiting the highest rate of PV1 recovery was applied to environmental sediment samples. One hundred eight sediment samples were collected from the Takagi River, Miyagi, Japan, and its estuary from November 2007 to April 2009, and the genomic RNAs of enterovirus and human norovirus in these samples were quantified by reverse transcription (RT)-quantitative PCR (qPCR). The human norovirus genome was detected in one sample collected at the bay, although its concentration was below the quantification limit. Meanwhile, the enterovirus genome was detected in two samples at the river mouth and river at concentrations of 8.6 × 102 and 2.4 × 102 copies/g (wet weight), respectively. This is the first report to obtain quantitative data for a human pathogenic virus in a river and in estuarine sediments using RT-qPCR.