Plan Your Next River Trip to Explore the Great Outdoors From Your Computer Using Streamer

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Streamer is an online mapping application for exploring downstream and upstream along America’s rivers and streams.

Streamer map of an upstream trace from a point on the Saint Croix River in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Streamer map of an upstream trace from a point on the Saint Croix River in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Weather radar and real-time streamflow stations are shown on the map.  (Public domain.)

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 were all describing Streamer, a popular on-line mapping program from the USGS that was first introduced a couple years ago. 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. 

As good as Streamer was when it launched in 2013, it has had several improvements through the years. These enhancements include:

  • A new map layer displays the locations of selected 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. 
  • Searching for locations on Streamer’s map by place name, zip code, geographic coordinates and more is greatly enhanced.
  • Tutorials have been created to show how to build a web page containing a map with Streamer map services and how to add stream trace functionality using the Streamer Trace API.
  • Base maps have been improved to make it easier to distinguish major streams and cities.
Detail from a Streamer map of an upstream trace from a point on the Arkansas River near Geuda Springs, Kansas

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.  (Public domain.)

It’s fascinating to explore the connections among our major streams and rivers using this improved new edition of Streamer. We suggest you give this application a try, especially if you are planning some water activities as part of “Great Outdoors” month. For more information: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/tx-water/science/streamer

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.  (Public domain.)