Archaeal communities from mercury and uranium-contaminated freshwater stream sediments were characterized and compared to archaeal communities present in an uncontaminated stream located in the vicinity of Oak Ridge, TN, USA. The distribution of the Archaea was determined by pyrosequencing analysis of the V4 region of 16S rRNA amplified from 12 streambed surface sediments. Crenarchaeota comprised 76% of the 1,670 archaeal sequences and the remaining 24% were from Euryarchaeota. Phylogenetic analysis further classified the Crenarchaeota as a Freshwater Group, Miscellaneous Crenarchaeota group, Group I3, Rice Cluster VI and IV, Marine Group I and Marine Benthic Group B; and the Euryarchaeota into Methanomicrobiales, Methanosarcinales, Methanobacteriales, Rice Cluster III, Marine Benthic Group D, Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vent Euryarchaeota 1 and Eury 5. All groups were previously described. Both hydrogen- and acetate-dependent methanogens were found in all samples. Most of the groups (with 60% of the sequences) described in this study were not similar to any cultivated isolates, making it difficult to discern their function in the freshwater microbial community. A significant decrease in the number of sequences, as well as in the diversity of archaeal communities was found in the contaminated sites. The Marine Group I, including the ammonia oxidizer Nitrosopumilus maritimus, was the dominant group in both mercury and uranium/nitrate-contaminated sites. The uranium-contaminated site also contained a high concentration of nitrate, thus Marine Group I may play a role in nitrogen cycle.