Tag Archives: trace

Streamer tool traces rivers from sources to sea

The National Atlas has a new feature, Streamer, that lets you trace the flow of any U.S. stream or river, either going upstream to the sources or downstream to the sea.

Below are a couple of screenshots from the tool (click to enlarge). I picked a point near the EcoWest compound in Denver, along Clear Creek. When you trace upstream, you effectively show the watershed that feeds a stream or river, and when you trace the path downstream, you see the circuitous path to the ocean.

 National Atlas Streamer Clear Creek UpstreamStreameNational Atlas Streamer Clear Creek Downstream

Another cool feature of this tool is that it produces a data report on the streams and rivers that you choose to trace. Using the example of Clear Creek, I found that the water will take a 2,487-mile journey from Denver to the Gulf of Mexico via the South Platte, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers, passing through 121 counties that are home to 10.4 million Americans.

To mix things up, I also tried an upstream trace for New Orleans:

National Atlas Streamer New Orleans

When the Mississippi River enters the Gulf of Mexico, its waters have collectively passed through 1,553 U.S. counties containing nearly 85 million residents. The total length of all 7,028 streams and rivers in the Mississippi’s watershed is a mind-boggling 300,243 miles. If you were to string together all of these streams and rivers, this über waterway would wrap around the Earth a dozen times.

What’s great about the Streamer tool is its simplicity: you click on a point and instantly find out where the water is coming from and where it’s going.

If only Lewis and Clark had access to something like this.

Data sources

Streamer doesn’t include every single creek, brook, and rivulet of water in the country. You’ll only see the major streams and rivers that are part of a dataset that you can download here. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend playing around with the National Atlas. which visualizes hundreds of layers of geographic data.

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