Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Maps of American and British Generic Stream Names

Map by Derek WatkinsClick to Enlarge.
Cartographic blogger Derek Watkins has created a fantastic map showing generic terms for streams in the contiguous (48 states) of the United States.  The map ignores, actually makes grey, the terms “river” and “creek” because of their near universal use throughout the country.  What is interesting are the other generic terms.  The application of terms reflects both cultural and physical geography.   For instance:

Kill - derived from Dutch is centered along the Hudson River.  This area was once the heartland of the New Netherlands.

Cañada, Arroyo, and Rio are found in the American Southwest, which was once part of New Spain.  Interestingly cañada, arroyo, and rio are separated from one another in their own clusters.   Cañada means “glen” and the use of the term reflects the rough terrain and the river-created valleys in present-day Arizona and surrounding regions.  Arroyos, intermediate streams and their sometimes dry river beds, populated dry New Mexico.  Rio is the rarest Spanish waterway term and reserved for major waterways like the Rio Grande.

Swamp is used in Southern states in areas where the coastal planes meet the Application Mountains.  In these regions the mountain rivers spread out and “swamp” the low lying lands.

In response Spatial Analysis UK made a map of generic stream terms in Great Britain.  

Map of British stream names by Spatial Analysis
The English-derived river dominates much of England and even northern Scotland.  A barrier of water provides a border between Scotland and England.  The Scottish term burn is scattered focusing primarily in remote and eastern regions of Scotland.  Wales remains cultural independent with its stream landscape with the Welsh term afon being by far the most popular in the country.

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