New Web Project Charts Every Waterway in the Contiguous United States

Calling all river lovers and map enthusiasts! A new web project called River runner, created by data analyst Sam Learner, lets you follow the path of a raindrop anywhere in the contiguous United States. Use of United States Geological Survey data, Learner mapped the flow of water in the 48 neighboring states. Just click anywhere on the map to create your raindrop and watch it flow downstream.

We are excited about this tool because it gives you a bird’s eye view of the river and its surroundings. Landmarks such as lakes and major mountains are marked, and the degree of detail and vertical distance to the river are flexible, which means you are in control of the details. Depending on where you start your journey, you can start with an unnamed stream or a small river, or you can jump straight into the path of a large river.

Here are some trips we suggest you try:

Follow the Colorado River

A possible path following the Colorado
A possible path following the Colorado

As you follow the Colorado route, you will notice many of the country’s famous natural wonders. The River Runner website shows the topography near the river and you’ll see it flowing along mountains, mesas, and canyon walls. Watch the river running through the Grand Canyon or further north, and you’ll see it run through other national parks, including Rocky Mountain and Canyonlands.

As you watch its course, keep in mind that even a large river has its limits. The demand for Colorado River water exceeds its supply. Seven different states depend on Colorado’s water, but its use is not sustainable. As you watch it virtually sink, think about how essential it is that we take steps to ensure it doesn’t dry out.

Follow the Snake River

Lower Snake River, ID |  Photo by Alison M. Jones
Lower Snake River, ID | Photo by Alison M. Jones

Using River Runner, you will come across the Snake River, a tributary of the Columbia River, primarily in Idaho, but also in Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington State.

Along the Snake River you will notice several dams. These include the Little Goose and Ice Harbor dams. As the river continues to flow through them, migrating fish unfortunately face each of the dams like a barrier, preventing them from moving freely to their natural spawning grounds. A high proportion of juvenile salmon are killed in their attempts to swim downstream. As you follow the path of the Snake River, consider the benefits of making one really free-flowing river.

Follow the Mississippi River

Upper Mississippi River, IA
Upper Mississippi River, IA

There are an incredible number of places you can start your way down the Mississippi River, as it passes through ten states and drains 41% of the continental United States. In fact, if you’re in the mood to explore, you’ll notice that following the Mississippi Highway downstream, you don’t have to start right near the river itself. Waterways as far as Montana and Pennsylvania will eventually flow into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi.

As you watch the course of the Mississippi, think about the changes the river has undergone in its history. Throughout the 1900s, wetlands and other floodplain ecosystems were drained and cut off from the river. This has severely degraded the habitat of native species and made flooding much more dangerous. Restoring the river’s natural floodplains is crucial moving forward.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of possible water sources you can get started with. What the website shows abundantly is the extent to which our waterways are linked, demonstrating that the problems a water body faces will rarely remain exclusive to it. This impact was intentional.

Learner Explain, “What I really hope people take away from the tool, besides a fun visual experience, is how interconnected our waterways are and the implications of that in terms of pollutants, d agriculture or water use. “

We encourage you to give the tool a try, and whether you want to see where the water in your own garden is going, whether you want to trace the banks of mighty rivers, or even seek to develop conservation strategies, we know you will learn. something about how the water flows through the country.

A response to “New Web Project Charts Every Waterway in the Contiguous United States

  1. maryanne bobik said:

    Thank you, I marvel that a little stream can become a five, Rio Grande

James S. Joseph