Greater Greater Washington

See the Chesapeake's rivers as a transit map

Cartographer Daniel Huffman has an amazing series of transit map-style diagrams. Instead of showing ground transportation, though, these show our systems of rivers. The one for the Chesapeake is fascinating.


Southern half (Maryland and below) of Chesapeake diagram. Images by Daniel Huffman.

Geoff Hatchard pointed these out, which mostly date from 2011 and before. There are tons more for all over North and Central America, showing the Hudson, Mississippi, Colorado, systems off the Great Lakes, and many more.

Looking at this, it's striking how little many of us likely know about our rivers. Sure, if you drive or take a train to Philly or NYC you can't help but notice the Susquehanna, and the Potomac forms a major border between states, but other than going over a short bridge and it forming a county boundary, how much do we really notice the Patuxent? For how many is the Rappahannock little more than half the name of a commuter bus agency? Yet these are major features of our geography and our lives depend on our planet's hydrology.

(There are a number of rivers not on the map, notably including the Anacostia, Occoquan, and everything on the east side of the bay.)

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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"For how many is the Rappahannock little more than half the name of a commuter bus agency?"

A. Civil War buffs - plenty of them around here

B. Anyone dealing with transportation around Fredericksburg, the Northern Neck etc - its a not insignificant chokepoint, afaict.

Similarly the Occuquan, which is A. A recreational resource B. the focus of the quasi WUP at downtown Occuquan C. the border, between FFX and PWC, and also a transportation chokepoint is well known out here in the sticks.

I'm guessing people who live in PG, Calver, AA counties in Md are pretty aware of the Patuxent.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2012 11:03 am • linkreport

Quibbles,

Leesburg isn't really on the Potomac. It's a good drive up 15 to get to the bridge.

The York river is all messed up. The north and South Anna river meet and form the Pamunkey. The Pamunkey and Mattaponi (which is three or four rivers as you drive up 95) then form the york which is the boundary between the Middle and Virginia Peninsulas

Where is the love for the Piankatank, the Appamattox, the elizabeth, or the chickahominy?

If we're going to treat this as a transit map wouldn't it help to show the various points are where the rivers are navigable or the canals still in use?

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

Oh, and there are rivers on the eastern shore too.

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 11:11 am • linkreport

I'm running out of space in my office, but this will look too cool next to my Cameron Booth "Amtrak as a Subway Map" and "Interstates as a Subway Map".

by Ryan S on Nov 30, 2012 11:11 am • linkreport

Rappahannock for me is wine and hiking, and good steak.

by Arlington on Nov 30, 2012 11:25 am • linkreport

Also amusing is that going southbound on 95 the Rappahannock is where the Welcome to Virginia visitor's center is as if the past 40 miles didn't count.

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 11:27 am • linkreport

True story.

When we first got here in 1995, the term "Maryland Eastern Shore" came up.

My mind’s eye focused on the DelMarVa (I knew that one!) part of Maryland, and so I thought, why isn’t it called the Maryland Western Shore?

Then I realized, of course, the orientation is the water.

(Hope this is related to the rivers :-) and I agree we don't seem to know much about the rivers, which were the first roads so to speak in the Colonial days.

by Jay Roberts on Nov 30, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

@jay

St Michaels, say, is on the Western COAST of the Delmarva, and the Eastern SHORE of the Chesapeake. Peninsulas (like islands and continents) have coasts - bays, like rivers and oceans, have shores. Glad you figured it out - its annoying when people don't. I once heard some young buck argue extensively that Ocean City was on the Eastern Shore and St Michaels (NOT Annapolis or Solomomns Island) was on the Western Shore.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

One reason we know so little about rivers is that map makers largely ignore them. Try to find a river on Google Maps. You gotta zoom in close before they get named. Bing maps is a bit better.

by Jasper on Nov 30, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

Jasper,

That's a big annoyance to me as well. Though I think I've amply proved on here that I apparently care more about rivers than most probably, I guess I'll be proud of that fact.

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

@ drumz: The lack of naming islands is also a big annoyance to me.

I know that e-maps are driven by the need to directions, but what's the point of directions if you don't know where you are?

by Jasper on Nov 30, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

"it's striking how little many of us likely know about our rivers"

The Potomac also forms the border between North and South politically speaking). Culturally, the Rappahannock River is the true border between the Northeast and the South/"real" Virginny.

by K Street on Nov 30, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

I used to think it was hilarious that Lake d'Evereux was the first body of water in Virginia labeled on Google Maps.

by selxic on Nov 30, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

Somewhat ironically, it appears Lake d'Evereux is no longer labeled on Google Maps.

by selxic on Nov 30, 2012 1:15 pm • linkreport

the Monocacy River is not on the map. Here is a little trivia for everybody, the head waters of Patuxent, Patapsco and Monocacy Rivers are within a mile of one another.

by Sand Box John on Nov 30, 2012 1:53 pm • linkreport

@Sand Box John

The first two I'd believe, but the Monocacy starts up by the PA border.

by MLD on Nov 30, 2012 2:04 pm • linkreport

I hate this style of map, because it really provides nothing that a decent map of the rivers themselves in their regular geography would provide.

by TomA on Nov 30, 2012 2:19 pm • linkreport

This is beautiful and brilliant. What a fascinating way to think - and look - at our geography, especially considering that rivers were the highways, before the trains came along. I'm going to share this with my daughter's 5th-grade teacher.

by swededc on Nov 30, 2012 3:11 pm • linkreport

Very cool. While it is missing some features, namely the Appomattox and Nansemond Rivers south of the James, it does highlight many cool places the interstates passed:

Nanticoke, Shickshinny, Nescopeck, and Catawissa, PA ...
Goshen, Urbanna, Crimora, and Grottoes, VA ...
Hampstead, Eldersburg, and Piney Point, MD.

How long before we get O&D info on the various segments?

by Jack Love on Nov 30, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

btw, the highlight for me driving up I-95 from DC to Philly is the Millard Tydings Bridge over the Susquehanna.

by Jack Love on Nov 30, 2012 3:42 pm • linkreport

I like it. Gives me a grasp of the watershed I can't get off a "normal" map.

by Steve on Nov 30, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

The Monocacy's headwaters are north of Gettysburg.

Regarding the Patapsco, the map shows only the North Branch. The South Branch of the Patapsco starts very close to where the Patuxent starts, near the point where Montgomery, Frederick, Howard and Carroll Counties all meet, in Mount Airy.

The eastern boundary of the Monocacy watershed is Parr's Ridge - Mount Airy is a point along this ridge.

by Frank IBC on Nov 30, 2012 8:55 pm • linkreport

@ MLD

You are right, I stand corrected, seem the third head water are tributaries to the Monocacy.

by Sand Box John on Nov 30, 2012 10:23 pm • linkreport

I realize I'm biased, but leaving out the Anacostia? Really?

by Julie Lawson on Nov 30, 2012 10:52 pm • linkreport

@ Julie

The Anacostia only goes to Bladensburg. That's really not far enough to show on this map - less than a third the distance of the shortest tributary shown.

by Frank IBC on Dec 1, 2012 5:40 pm • linkreport

No Tioughnioga River? For shame.

by crin on Dec 3, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

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