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RIVER LIFE

Streamer Map Offers New Way to Take a Measure of Your Watershed

July 24, 2013Patrick NunnallyEngagementComments Off

Many people will tell you that I’m not necessarily the most attentive person in the world, so it wasn’t until the third email from colleagues alerted me to the new “Streamer” map from nationalatlas.gov that I figured I really should examine  this new tool.

This interactive map allows users to trace both the upstream and downstream extent of watersheds from pretty much any point you choose.  Find the city where you were born, for instance.  If it’s on a river, and chances are that it is, then where does that water come from before it passes your town?  Where does it go?  The site even can generate reports providing summary information on the political features of the watershed (states, number of cities, population, etc.) and basic information about the tributary streams.

Cool stuff, to be sure.  Writing in Minnpost.com, Ron Meador has described the Streamer atlas and what it offers about one of the Midwest’s loveliest rivers, the St. Croix.  True to expectations, Meador’s reflections on the St. Croix are stimulating and thoughtful, and offer perspectives that are new.

Maybe that’s one of the great potentials of the Streamer atlas.  By giving us a new way to see “what’s next to what” within a watershed, new perspectives and juxtapositions emerge, and a new way of seeing rivers begins to dawn.  Rivers and maps are both, fundamentally, about relationships; this new way to map rivers may become a critically important visualization tool to help us all realize how connected we are.

By the way, while I was writing this post, a fourth friend sent me an email “Have you seen this really cool map?”  The folks at nationalatlas.gov have really created a viral phenomenon here!

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