A River by Any Other Name

US Stream Names

Click to enlarge. Map by Derek Watkins

What do you call your local stream? 

Check out this fascinating map with its “Lite-Brite-esque” quality. This map, designed by Derek Watkins, makes the connection between regional usage of words for the common term “river” or “stream.”

It is a thought-provoking visual representation that links cultural, environmental and geographic patterns in generic “toponyms” (place names).

We see that the Gulf Coast states use French-infused terms such as bayou, while the Southwest states call these waterways by Spanish-derived names such as rio and arroyo.  What the northeast calls a brook, the west coast calls a slough

And as an east coast gal, I prefer swamp. The term always captured the mystery in the creatures you would see while running along the muddy river banks right before sunset.

Regardless of what you call it, we all love our local streams.  Want a chance to do something really positive for your river and your community?  Organize a cleanup of your local rio or brook and join the year-round National River Cleanup® efforts.  For ongoing volunteer opportunities, check out our own cleanup map to find a local cleanup in your backyard.