Autumn River

The United Watershed States of America (map)

United Watershed States of America

United Watershed States of America. Image by John Lavey and Cameron Ellis. For a large version please visit our flickr page here.

(excerpt from the original blog)

…Armed with an elementary understanding of GIS and various shapefiles, I set out to create such a map. Some notes on the map itself: It doesn’t look like Powell’s, exactly. Since I decided to take a look at the whole of a country rather than just the arid parts, which includes U.S. possessions on the east coast, boundaries will differ. On top of that, I had access to data that Powell did not; namely Hydrologic Unit Code – HUC –  shapefiles, which depict watersheds from their largest catchment down to very small, creek-level, areas. My priorities for creating this map were to: end up with 50 states; keep larger watersheds intact; try to locate watershed states in roughly the same geography as present-day states; maintain national borders; and try to keep state capitals in each state. Here’s what I came up with:



Cameron Ellis is the GIS and Creative Products Manager at Community Builders. He uses maps to describe and analyze spatial patterns in development.

John Lavey is a Program Director out of Community Builders' Bozeman, Montana office. John works with community partners throughout the northern rockies to advance community development, economic development and conservation development goals.

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10 Responses to The United Watershed States of America (map)

  1. Pingback: Map: The United States of Watersheds – Washington Post (blog) – United States – Google News | News Magazine Blog

  2. eric says:

    I’m curious (probably because I am from Oregon). How exactly did Washington cross the Colombia river (At the mouth to the Pacific, no less) to claim the entire Oregon coast? This seems very counter-intuitive.

    • John Lavey says:

      @eric: The watershed state outlines are a function of how the USGS delineates HUC’s coupled with the ‘filters’ I note in the piece. I started with HUC Region data then worked down to Sub-Regions and in some cases down to HUC Accounting Units in order to get the results I got. Remember, I wanted to end up with 50 states so, especially in the east, some watersheds are “broken” up. I agree that some of these “states” look a little odd under this approach, and if someone ever wanted to push for this change (good luck), I’d counsel a few changes. Connecting the WA/OR split being one of them. Also reconnecting the Clark Fork back to the Columbia in what would be WA.

  3. eric says:

    Thanks for the response John! Fascinating!

    A quick look at the work to “re-establish the boundary” between the Carolina , even with only 93 businesses/residents affected! Or, the dispute between Georgia and Tennessee (specifically all about water rights) quickly shows the quagmire of both state lines and water rights, for sure!

  4. Pingback: Map: The United States of Watersheds BY REID WILSON November 19 at 8:30 am | Just Sayin'

  5. Pingback: Map: The United States of Watersheds «

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  7. Chiara Subhas says:

    Is it possible to purchase this map as a poster? It would be such a great learning tool.

  8. John Lavey says:

    I have been asked several times to make this map available as a poster for purchase. Done deal. $20 + s/h. I’ll email those I know have expressed an interest. Anyone else interested please email me:

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