All the Rivers of the World Shown in Rainbow Colors: A Data Visualization to Explore

Even if you’ve nev­er trav­eled the seas, you’ve sure­ly known at least a few rivers in your time. And though you must be con­scious of the fact that all of those rivers run, ulti­mate­ly, to the sea, you may not have spent much time con­tem­plat­ing it. Now, thanks to the work of map­mak­er and data ana­lyst Robert Szucs, you won’t be able to come upon at a riv­er with­out con­sid­er­ing the par­tic­u­lar sea into which it flows. He’s cre­at­ed what he calls “the first ever map of the world’s rivers divid­ed into ocean drainage basins,” which appears just above.

This world map “shows, in dif­fer­ent col­ors, all the rivers that flow into the Atlantic, Arc­tic, Indi­an or Pacif­ic oceans, plus endorhe­ic riv­er basins which nev­er reach the coast, most­ly due to dry­ing up in desert areas.”

Szucs has also bro­ken it down into “a set of 43 maps in this style for dif­fer­ent coun­tries, states and con­ti­nents,” all of them avail­able to down­load (and to pur­chase as large-for­mat posters) from his web site Grasshop­per Geog­ra­phy.

We pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured Szucs here on Open Cul­ture back in 2017, when he pub­lished a riv­er-and-stream-visu­al­iz­ing map of the Unit­ed States made accord­ing to a sim­i­lar­ly col­or­ful and infor­ma­tive scheme. Exam­in­ing that work of infor­ma­tion design gave me a rich­er con­text in which to imag­ine the rivers around which I grew up in Wash­ing­ton State — the Sam­mamish, the Sno­qualmie, the Colum­bia — as well as a clear­er sense of just how much the Unit­ed States’ larg­er, much more com­plex water­way net­work must have con­tributed to the devel­op­ment of the coun­try as a whole.

Of course, hav­ing lived the bet­ter part of a decade in South Korea, I’ve late­ly had less rea­son to con­sid­er those par­tic­u­lar geo­graph­i­cal sub­jects. But Szucs’ new glob­al ocean drainage maps have brought relat­ed ones to mind: it will hence­forth be a rare day when I ride a train across the Han Riv­er (one of the more sub­lime every­day sights Seoul has to offer) and don’t imag­ine it mak­ing its way out to the Pacif­ic — the very same Pacif­ic that was the des­ti­na­tion of all those rivers of my west-coast Amer­i­can youth. Ocean­i­cal­ly speak­ing, even a move across the world does­n’t take you quite as far as it seems.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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

The Mean­der­ing Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er and How It Evolved Over Thou­sands of Years Visu­al­ized in Bril­liant Maps from 1944

That Time When the Mediter­ranean Sea Dried Up & Dis­ap­peared: Ani­ma­tions Show How It Hap­pened

A Rad­i­cal Map Puts the Oceans — Not Land — at the Cen­ter of Plan­et Earth (1942)

The Moth­er of All Maps of the “Father of Waters”: Behold the 11-Foot Traveler’s Map of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er (1866)

Tour the Ama­zon with Google Street View; No Pass­port Need­ed

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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