Where the Rivers Go

I won’t wax poetic with my own AHA realizations from the maps depicted on this page. There was a time when I would have, so count yourselves lucky.

Images by  Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs, depicted at:

These may be the prettiest maps you’ll ever see | MNN – Mother Nature Network

I realize, after dozens of geography and cartography-related posts over the years, that not many of you find the fascination or enjoy the understanding that can come from simply pouring oneself into the details of a particular terrain.

These beautiful maps isolate river drainages by continent. They leave me with as many questions as answers. I wish I could name more than a dozen of the US rivers I see so clearly defined here, and I can name far fewer than that from the image of European rivers.

If you are a teacher, this would make enriching material for your geography, sociology or Earth science class.

QUESTION: find a color depicting a river that does NOT connect to an ocean. What becomes of that water? Are all such drainages bound for permanent lakes? Do these catchments contribute more to groundwater than those, like Goose Creek/Roanoke River, that empty surface water and spring-seeped groundwater to the nearest coast?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thanks, Fred, for this post. Love the maps. I tend to love most maps and pour over them much longer than the tolerance of those around me. I’m gong to get some of these. I wish you could hover over such a map with a mouse and set the names of the river/streams/etc.

    Regarding your question, just a story. A couple of summers ago we camped in that non-ocean drainage in North Dakota. We are just west of Devils Lake, ND at a state park on an island in a lake. The causeway to the island had just been raised several feet because the lake level was going up, up, up. There are dams near the airport at Devils Lake to keep the rising water away. This lake has no surface drainage, but it’s still fresh water. It’s not really a low point there since it sits between several large ocean drainages. It’s just a bit flat there and the water seems to have a hard time deciding which way to head out to go to an ocean. Just a bit of a dimple on the top of aa very broad hill. The campground itself had lost several former waterfront campsites now underwater. If you want to know what sea-level rise will be like, go talk to the people up there since they are quite experienced with the issue.

    Best of the new year to you.

    Keep writing.

  2. What a beautiful and informative image. Looking around my home territory I am drawn to the different colors between the Pecos and the Rio Grande. What is that all about? You don’t see the like until you into the more mountainous areas further west…

  3. Thanks for this, Con, I want to know more about non-ocean-bound rainfall. Guess I had never thought about this before, and like you, I’d love a key-to-the-rivers for all these maps. Had the annual rainfall amounts gone up significantly in the flooded depressions near Devil’s Lake?

    Gary, I hope to spend some time on Google Earth and overlay (as best I can) these river maps to help me correlate terrains and elevations etc with drainages. In my next life, I want to be a geospatial earth-orbiting adventurer–with a Time Machine.

  4. I won’t be answering any of your questions…mostly I want to comment on the beauty and wonder of nature, and how these rivers form a network that nurtures the earth. Pioneers and explorers who traveled these rivers appreciated them for so many reasons!