Launch a River Trip from Your Computer Using Streamer

April 16, 2014  - By 2 Comments
Streamer map of the conterminous United States showing water basins, weather radar, and real-time streamflow stations.

Streamer map of the conterminous United States showing water basins, weather radar, and real-time streamflow stations.

Field & Stream called it a “…very cool tool and quite a bit of fun.”  MinnPost described it as a “…high-tech illustration of Norman Maclean’s timeless view that, ‘Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” And Popular Science noted that, “There’s something especially satisfying about clicking a stream that…shoots its way across multiple states to empty into the ocean.”

These publications are all describing Streamer, the popular on-line mapping program from the U.S. Geological Survey. Streamer is a powerful, yet easy way to explore our major waterways. With a simple map click, anyone can trace rivers and streams from a starting point all the way downstream to where a stream drains. Even more impressive, they can click on a stream and trace all others that drain to that point. Streamer also produces a report that includes a map and information about the people and places encountered along the streams traced.

Streamer map of an upstream trace from a point on Belle Fourche River in South Dakota extending into Wyoming and Montana. Weather radar and real-time streamflow stations are shown on the map.

Streamer map of an upstream trace from a point on Belle Fourche River in South Dakota extending into Wyoming and Montana. Weather radar and real-time streamflow stations are shown on the map.

As good as Streamer was when it launched last summer, it just got better. Four major enhancements and dozens of small improvements have been made. These include:

  • A new map layer displays the locations of real-time streamflow stations across the country. Streamer updates this information hourly and symbolizes these stations to illustrate current streamflow conditions compared with each station’s observed mean streamflow on the same day of the year.
  • You can tell at a glance whether conditions are above, below, or at normal levels at each station.
  • Links are provided from Streamer directly to selected stations for additional information and data.
  • Another new map layer has been added that shows weather radar across all 50 States.
  • Useful improvements to Streamer’s detailed reports have been added. One of these lists the names of waterbodies (lakes, reservoirs, etc.) along the path of your trace.
  • Congressional Districts encountered along your trace have been added.
  • A mouse click takes you from the Streamer report to additional information from the Census Bureau about socioeconomic conditions in each District.
  • Searching for locations on Streamer’s map by place name, zip code, geographic coordinates and more is greatly enhanced.

In its first eight months in service, Streamer users traced more than 2.9 billion river miles.

The USGS announced in February that it is ending production of the National Atlas on September 30, and that some of its products and services would transition to The National Map. With this release, Streamer becomes the first of these National Atlas products and services that The National Map will offer.  For cartographers and geospatial information professionals, Streamer’s surface water data is available for download at no cost.

Detail from a Streamer map of an upstream trace from a point on the Arkansas River near Geuda Springs, Kansas, extending into Colorado and New Mexico. Real-time streamflow stations are shown.

Detail from a Streamer map of an upstream trace from a point on the Arkansas River near Geuda Springs, Kansas, extending into Colorado and New Mexico. Real-time streamflow stations are shown.

Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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