See How Rivers Connect Us – River Mapping


This is a guest blog from American Rivers’ intern, Madelaine Pierce.


Streamer mapping system | © NationalAtlas.gov

Now you can trace your local river to learn more about its impact to your community | © NationalAtlas.gov

The earliest known maps date back to before 16,500 BC, depicting simple images of the heavens and skies. Today, we can enjoy a wide variety of maps that illustrate America’s intricate river network, a paradise on earth for any water loving sprite. Check out some of our favorite resources to see how rivers connect us!

  • Streamer by NationalAtlas.gov – This easy to use map allows you to pinpoint specific rivers in your area, or explore anywhere in the country. Trace a specific river or creek and learn about important details like its origin, direction, length, or number of residents in each county in flows through. Streamer offers a closer look at rivers near you.
  • All Rivers by Nelson Minar – Like veins running through a brain, it’s not rocket science to see just how intricately our river system envelopes the entire United States. This skillfully crafted river map by Nelson Minar details the tiniest of streams to the largest of rivers.
  • River Maps by Daniel Huffman – For a more artistic depiction of our nation’s rivers, check out Daniel Huffman’s modern twist on traditional river mapping. Mimicking underground transit maps from the early 1930’s, the simple nature of these graphic images help us to better understand the connection between our nation’s most significant rivers with our everyday lives.
  • The United States of Watersheds by the Washington Post- As far back as the 19th century, American Settlers were worried about water rationing. Explorer John Wesley Powell saw water supply as an issue and advocated for state lines drawn based on watersheds. Although states were not done with way, check out this new map that depicts what the United States would look like if the borders were decided by our rivers.

Our favorite maps of some of the rivers we work to protect and restore!

See where America’s rivers lead. Click the links below to view some our favorite rivers:

  • Bronx River – Take a virtual vacation with a trip down the Bronx River using Bronx River Blueway GeoStory. In this GeoStory you can travel, point to point, reading about the history, culture, and activities available along the Bronx River. Integrated with satelitte maps, the river comes to life with vivid photos and videos.
  • Colorado River – National Geographic’s info graphic style map of the Colorado gives you a sneak peak at the significance of this iconic river with an easy to navigate fact finder. We named the Colorado River #1 America’s Most Endangered River® of 2013.
  • Columbia River – The largest river in the Pacific Northwest the Columbia is essential to the region’s environment and economy. Check out these maps from Washington’s Department of Ecology American Rivers has worked to protect and restore the Columbia River and its tributaries, along with the basin’s iconic salmon and steelhead runs, for more than 20 years.
  • Elwha River Home to the world’s biggest dam removal, the Elwha River is a restoration success story in the making. Explore the Elwha through the National Park Service’s digital brochure and map. American Rivers advocated for two decades to remove the Elwha River dams, and restore the river’s salmon runs – an effort showcased in our Year of the River video.
  • Flint River – American Rivers is part of the Upper Flint River Working Group to assess low-flow problems in the Upper Flint River system. The Working Group engages all stakeholders to help come up with solutions to the Flints water supply problems.

River maps help us understand the function and purpose that our rivers serve. River networks are extensive and so are their uses. From wildlife habitat, water sources for cities, agriculture, industry and recreation, river maps are essential tools to assess the needs of a river and the needs of those they support. Do you have a favorite river map? Share with us on the American Rivers Facebook page!

2 Responses to “See How Rivers Connect Us – River Mapping”

Peter Haeffner

Great Stuff I am searching for a map of the entire country (x Hawaii & Alaska) that clearly identifies all our major rivers and headwaters…can you help?

Many thanks

pete haeffner

Neat stuff Can you direct me to a single map that clearly depicts our country’s major rivers?