All the Rivers & Streams in the U.S. Shown in Rainbow Colors: A Data Visualization to Behold

This is a sight for sore eyes. Cre­at­ed by Hun­gar­i­an geo­g­ra­ph­er and map-design­er Robert Szucs, using open-source QGIS soft­ware, the high res­o­lu­tion map above shows:

all the per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary streams and rivers of the con­tigu­ous 48 states in beau­ti­ful rain­bow colours, divid­ed into catch­ment areas. It shows Strahler Stream Order Clas­si­fi­ca­tion. The high­er the stream order, the thick­er the line.

When you look at the map, you’ll see, as The Wash­ing­ton Post observes, “Every riv­er in a col­or drains to the same riv­er, which then drains into the ocean. The giant basin in the mid­dle of the coun­try is the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er basin. Major rivers like the Ohio and the Mis­souri drain into the behe­moth.” Pret­ty impres­sive.

The map was appar­ent­ly made using data from the Euro­pean Envi­ron­ment Agency and the Rivers Net­work Sys­tem.

You can find the map on Imgur, or pur­chase “ultra high” res­o­lu­tion copies through Etsy for $8.

Szucs has als0 pro­duced data visu­al­iza­tions of the riv­er sys­tems in Chi­na, India, Europe and oth­er parts of the world.

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Comments (3)
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  • GregH says:

    Weird. What’s with the straight black line across the top of the map? Is that where Out­er Space begins?

  • Randy says:

    I find the Great Lakes region con­fus­ing. Com­pare with the Gulf, where each drain into the Gulf is a dif­fer­ent col­or, but each drain into the Great Lakes is the same col­or, and yet there is no VISUAL rea­son why this should be so.

    Fur­ther it seems to be pri­or­i­tiz­ing polit­i­cal bound­aries over geo­graph­ic ones, along the Cana­di­an and Mex­i­can bor­ders (some of which are in water) yet it arbi­trar­i­ly excludes Alas­ka, Hawaii, and all the ter­ri­to­ries.

  • Robert Szucs says:


    Thanks for shar­ing first of all.

    I love how peo­ple some­times take offence in a US riv­er map not show­ing rivers from Cana­da and Mex­i­co. :) Nobody every com­plained that my Italy riv­er map is not show­ing rivers of Slove­nia. :) Any­way, I’d love to make a North Amer­i­ca, Alas­ka and Hawaii ver­sion obvi­ous­ly, but sad­ly the data is not avail­able. Nei­ther for most of Cana­da.

    As for the Great Lakes region, the rea­son it’s all the same col­or is that it’s the same riv­er basin. St. Lawrence.

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