Straight to their Source: Where Washington Waters Flow
Worth checking out: a new interactive mapping service from the USGS that lets hikers trace the flow of major rivers and streams to their source.
This summer, the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) released an interactive mapping service they've dubbed Streamer. It lets you trace the flow of major rivers and streams both upstream and downstream.
Why should Washington hikers care? Because so many of our hiking trails and access roads follow water drainages. Plus, if you care a whit about maps (as many hikers do), this thing is just awesome to play with.
- See how rivers that start on opposite sides of the same ridge (like the North Fork Skykomish and Little Wenatchee Rivers) take wildly different paths to the Pacific.
- Learn how many miles of streams flow into Lake Chelan (178 miles) with a single click.
- Wonder which waterways connect us to Oregon, Montana and Wyoming? Streamer brings us all together.
Below are just a few of the trace results for Washington's well-known waterways (like the Elwha and Columbia Rivers), but seeking out the source of your local river is equally interesting. Some fun searches? Trace the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie, the Suiattle, the Snake or Okanogan Rivers.
Tracing the free-flowing Elwha River
What flows into the Columbia? Pretty much everything
A final observation: streams and brains
After spending more than an hour tracing the branching pathways of water through Washington's topography, it struck us how many of the smaller pathways looked so familiar to the trail maps we scrutinize before, during and after hiking adventures.
Also, the more complex the pathway, the more the streams and rivers resembled one—or all—of the following: veins, leaves, trees or brains.
What do you see when you look at Washington's waterways?