American RIVERS and WATERWAYS
. . . Pathways for migration, commerce, entertainment
. . . . . Includes many links to websites (Bibliography, Canals, Lakes, Rivers)
. . . . . . . . A mini-glossary of terms
. . . . . . . . . . . A set of links focusing on the boats used on the rivers
Please BOOKMARK. -- Refresh often to catch future updates.
See bottom of page for links to Beverly's related websites.
A note from Beverly Whitaker
As a professional genealogist and an amateur historian, I've been fascinated with early American Roads and Trails. Judging by the response I've had to my web sites on the subject, that enthusiasm is shared. But it would be a mistake to think that all pioneer Americans traveled the winding trails through dense forests, across the plains, over rugged mountains, and through fearsome deserts. The choice of the early colonists was usually the waterways. And American history and population movement were so greatly influenced by rivers that it is a subject we must consider also. Nor can we overlook the contribution of the canal system that developed early in our country's history to meet the needs of commerce as Americans settled into new lands and needed a way to speed products of their new lands back to densely populated eastern markets.
I grew up in the Mississippi river-town of Burlington, Iowa, population at that time of about 30,000, the largest city in the extreme southeastern corner of the state. Before Iowa became a state, that portion along the Mississippi attracted new settlers where once there had been only a scattering of Indian tribes. Later, I lived in St. Louis, and now in Kansas City. The lore of the Missouri River is equally fascinating, and as we commemorated the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, the Missouri River gained much attention.
The Mississippi River, viewed from "Mosquito Park," Burlington, Iowa
Barge on the Mississippi,
viewed from Crapo Park, Burlington, Iowa
A week's journey down the Mississippi to New Orleans aboard a paddle-wheel steamboat made my imagination soar. And I long for a return of the excursion boats on the Missouri River at Kansas City.
Our frequent trips to Georgia have found us crossing the Missouri, the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers all in one day. In a manner of minutes, one can reach an opposite shore using bridges and highways that are masterpieces of engineering.
Our travels within the United States have introduced us to still more significant rivers. But even the small ones have their place in our heritage. I challenge you to learn about those rivers and other significant waterways, past and present.
Then of course, there's the RAILROADS . . . but that's still another story!
A Mini-Glossary of Terms relating to waterways and land formations contributing to the variations. (Primary Source: American Heritage Dictionary and Thesaurus)
bank -- A steep natural incline
banks -- The slope of land adjoining a body of water, especially adjoining a river, lake, or channel.
basin -- 1.An artificially enclosed area of a river
or harbor designed so that the water level remains unaffected by tidal changes.
2. A small enclosed or partly enclosed body of water. 3. A region drained by a single river system
bay -- A body of water partially enclosed by land but with a wide mouth, affording access to the sea.
bluff -- A steep headland, promontory, riverbank, or cliff.
branch -- 1. A divergent section
of a river, especially near the mouth;
2. A tributary of a river. [Chiefly Southern U.S.]
branch water -- Water from a stream. [Chiefly Southern U.S.]
brook -- A small stream.
canal -- An artificial waterway or artificially improved river used for travel, shipping, or irrigation.
canyon -- A narrow chasm with steep cliff walls, cut into the earth by running water; a gorge.
cape -- A point or head of land projecting into a body of water.
cave -- A hollow or natural passage under or into the earth with an opening to the surface.
cavern -- A large cave.
cove -- 1. A small sheltered bay
in the shoreline of a sea, river, or lake.
2. A recess or small valley in the side of a mountain.
3. A cave or cavern.
4. A narrow gap or pass between hills or woods.
cliff -- A high, steep, or overhanging face of rock.
coast -- Land next to the sea; the seashore.
creek -- 1. A small stream, often
a shallow or intermittent tributary to a river. Also
called Regional: branch, brook, run.
2. A channel or stream running through a salt marsh: tidal creeks teeming with shore wildlife.
3. Chiefly British: A small inlet in a shoreline, extending farther inland than a cove.
crick -- Inland Northern and Western U.S. variant of creek.
dam -- 1. A barrier constructed across a waterway
to control the flow or raise the level of water.
2. A body of water controlled by such a barrier.
delta -- Deposit at the mouth of a tidal inlet, caused by tidal currents.
estuary -- 1. The part of the wide lower course of
a river where its current is met by the tides.
2. An arm of the sea that extends inland to meet the mouth of a river.
fiord -- A long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between steep slopes.
flats -- A stretch of level ground: salt flats.
ford -- A shallow place in a body of water, such as a river, where one can cross by walking or riding on an animal or in a vehicle.
gap -- An opening through mountains; a pass.
gorge -- A deep, narrow passage with steep rocky sides; a ravine.
harbor -- A sheltered part of a body of water deep enough to provide anchorage for ships.
hill -- A well-defined natural elevation smaller than a mountain
hollow -- A small valley between mountains.
holler (equal to hollow) -- A small valley between mountains. [Appalachian Mountains]
inlet – 1. A recess, such
as a bay or cove, along a coast.
2. A stream or bay leading inland, as from the ocean; an estuary.
3. A narrow passage of water, as between two islands.
island -- land mass, especially one smaller than a continent, entirely surrounded by water.
isle -- An island, especially a small one.
isthmus -- A narrow strip of land connecting two larger masses of land.
lagoon -- A shallow body of water, especially one separated from a sea by sandbars or coral reefs.
lake – 1. A large inland body
of fresh water or salt water.
2. A scenic pond, as in a park.
marsh -- An area of soft, wet, low-lying land, characterized by grassy vegetation and often forming a transition zone between water and land.
mesa -- A broad, flat-topped elevation with one or more cliff-like sides, common in the southwest United States.
mountain -- A natural elevation of the earth's surface having considerable mass, generally steep sides, and a height greater than that of a hill.
notch -- A narrow pass between mountains.
ocean -- The entire body of salt water that covers more than 70 percent of the earth's surface.
peak -- The pointed summit of a mountain.
peninsula -- A piece of land that projects into a body of water and is connected with the mainland by an isthmus.
pike -- 1. A turnpike.
2. A tollgate on a turnpike; a toll paid.
3. Chiefly British: A hill with a pointed summit. [Middle English, possibly of Scandinavian origin]
point -- A tapering extension of land projecting into water; a peninsula, cape, or promontory.
plateau -- An elevated, comparatively level expanse of land; a tableland.
pond -- A still body of water smaller than a lake, often of artificial origin.
promontory -- A high ridge of land or rock jutting out into a body of water; a headland.
ravine -- A deep, narrow valley or gorge in the earth's surface worn by running water
ridge -- A long narrow chain of hills or mountains. Also called ridgeline.
rill -- A small brook; a rivulet.
river -- A large natural stream of water emptying into an ocean, a lake, or another body of water and usually fed along its course by converging tributaries.
rivulet -- A small brook or stream; a streamlet.
run -- A small stream
When I typed in run, I found these statements:
REGIONAL NOTE: Terms for "a small, fast-flowing stream" vary throughout the eastern United States especially. Speakers in the eastern part of the Lower North (including Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania) use the word run, as in Bull Run. Speakers in New York State are liable to call such a stream a kill (a Dutch borrowing). Brook has come to be used throughout the Northeast. Southerners refer to a branch, and throughout the northern United States the term is crick, a variant of creek.
Synonyms to run in the thesaurus, all defined as "a small stream"
sea -- 1. The continuous body of salt water covering most of the earth's surface. 2. A tract of water within an ocean.
seashore -- 1. Land by the sea.
2. Ground lying between high-water and low-water marks.
shoreline -- The edge of a body of water.
sound -- A long, relatively wide body of water, larger than a strait or a channel, connecting larger bodies of water.
strait -- A narrow channel joining two larger bodies of water.
swamp -- 1. A seasonally flooded
bottomland with more woody plants than a marsh and better drainage than a bog.
2. A lowland region saturated with water.
tableland -- A flat, elevated region; a plateau or mesa.
tide -- The periodic variation in the surface level
of the oceans and of bays, gulfs, inlets, and estuaries, caused by
gravitational attraction of the moon and sun.
valley – 1. elongated
lowland between ranges of mountains, hills, or other uplands, often having a
river or stream running along the bottom.
2. An extensive area of land drained or irrigated by a river system.
wetland -- A lowland area, such as a marsh or swamp, that is saturated with moisture, especially when regarded as the natural habitat of wildlife.
Links to Web Sites
Features rivers and waterways and their impact on American history and migration
Web addresses change often. If you find a dead link, please let me know. And as you find additional web sites helpful to this subject, send the addresses to me so we can share them! Send these to me by e-mail, with the word "Waterways" in the subject line. Meanwhile, here are some URLs to get you started.
BOATS -- Compare flatboats, keelboats, steamboats in the 1800s
Taming the Wilderness http://www.connerprairie.org/historyonline/tamriver.htm
Boats of the Westward Expansion http://www.promotega.org/csu30026/boats.htm
The Pioneer Days of Old-Time Keelboats http://kentuckyexplorer.com/nonmembers/01-04035.html
Technology, 1800-1820, before steam http://riverweb.cet.uiuc.edu/TECH/TECH2.htm
Steamboat Navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/PAO/history/MISSRNAV/steamboat.asp
Iowa Pathways--Steaming Up the River http://www.iptv.org/IowaPathways/mypath.cfm?ounid=ob_000218&h=no
The Steamboat Era http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/ibex/archive/IDOT/idot11.htm
North American CANALS http://www.canals.com/northam.htm
History of the ERIE CANAL http://www.history.rochester.edu/canal/
The National Canal Museum http://www.canals.org/ncm/history.html
The Canal Age http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/canal/index.html
Taming the Wilderness: Canals http://www.connerprairie.org/historyonline/tamcanal.html
Canadian Ports and Canals and the Hudson River and ERIE CANAL http://theshipslist.com/ships/portsopen.html
Historical Collections of the Great Lakes http://www.bgsu.edu/colleges/library/hcgl/hcgl.html
Maritime History of the Great Lakes http://www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/
Great Lakes History http://greatlakeshistory.homestead.com/home.html
Minnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks http://www.mnhs.org/places/nationalregister/shipwrecks/
Historic Lake Champlain http://www.historiclakes.org/
Taming the Wilderness: Rivers http://www.connerprairie.org/historyonline/tamriver.html
Picture History, Rivers and Streams http://www.picturehistory.com/find/c/214/mcms.html
American Rivers, a PUZZLE containing the names of 68 American Rivers http://crpuzzles.com/ws/ws0006.html
American Rivers: Restore, Protect, Enjoy http://www.amrivers.org/
Inland Navigation, 1790-1840 http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/transport/front.html
History of Jamestown, on the JAMES River http://www.apva.org/history/
CHESAPEAKE BAY http://www.mariner.org/chesapeakebay/captions/cbl004-04.html
NEW ENGLAND Rivers http://www.usawaterquality.org/newengland/initiatives/american.html
History of the CONNECTICUT River http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/conn.river/history.html
The CONNECTICUT River http://www.rotr.com/
HUDSON River History
The HUDSON River http://www.beczak.org/hudson_history.htm
The HUDSON River, an American Treasure http://www.marist.edu/summerscholars/99/
CAROLINA Rivers http://www.carolinaliving.com/visiting/history_rivers.asp
SAVANNAH River, Where Georgia Began http://www.savriverstreet.com/history.html
SAVANNAH River http://www.augustachronicle.com/history/rowers.html
CUMBERLAND and TENNESSEE Rivers http://www.orn.usace.army.mil/history/twin_rivers.htm
USA Waterways: TENNESSEE and CUMBERLAND http://usawaterways.com
The SCHUYLKILL River http://www.web-savvy.com/river/schuylkill/schuylkill2.html
THREE RIVERS Genealogy, History of the Pittsburgh area http://www.15122.com/3rivers/History/index.htm
History of the Pittsburgh District http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/pao/history.htm
The MONONGAHELA River System http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/nav/monback.htm
The ALLEGHENY River http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/nav/arback.htm
The OHIO River System http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/nav/ohioback.htm
The First American West, the OHIO River Valley http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award99/icuhtml/fawhome.html
Rivers of the OHIO Basin http://www.americanrivers.org/ohioriver/ohiobasin.htm
Some Rivers in Illinois http://www.outfitters.com/illinois/history/family/rivers.html
The DES MOINES River http://www.area15rpc.com/county%20histories/history.htm
Rivers of Life: The Mighty MISSISSIPPI http://cgee.hamline.edu/rivers/Resources/river_profiles/mississippi.html
Old Man River, a Resource for the Upper MISSISSIPPI http://www.oldmanriver.com/
MISSISSIPPI River Museum, Dubuque, Iowa http://www.mississippirivermuseum.com/
MISSISSIPPI River, Cape Girardeau Riverfront(MO) http://rosecity.net/river/
Mark Twain and the Mighty MISSISSIPPI http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/Exhibits/MTP/mississippi.html
Lower MISSISSIPPI Delta Region http://www.cr.nps.gov/delta/
MISSISSIPPI River Resources http://www.edwinlyon.com/RiverLinks.htm
The Way West: Man and the MISSOURI River http://www.mid-mo.net/bigmuddy/motrekker1.html
MISSOURI River Heritage Corridor http://www.mid-mo.net/bigmuddy/stnswstlstps.html
MISSOURI River "Accuracy" tour http://www.hearingvoices.com/trail/river/
River Craft (on the old MISSOURI River) http://www.kcmuseum.com/riv4.html
Where Two Rivers Join: MISSOURI and KANSAS http://www.kckpl.lib.ks.us/kscoll/lochist/thennow/TN61.htm
ARKANSAS River Historical Society Museum http://www.tulsaweb.com/port/
PLATTE River Crossing http://calcite.rocky.edu/octa/platte.htm
History of Rivers, Streams and Lakes in Milam Co., Texas http://www.channelconsultants.net/mcinfo/history/rivers.htm
Nacogdoches Co., Texas Creeks, Rivers and Bayous http://www.rootsweb.com/~txnacogd/waterways/rivers_etc.htm
The COLUMBIA River http://www.ccrh.org/river/history.htm
Center for COLUMBIA River History http://www.ccrh.org/
COLUMBIA and SNAKE Rivers http://www.columbia-snake.org/about/salmon_photos.htm
Rivers to the WEST http://www.over-land.com/rivers.html
[This site has paragraphs on each of the following rivers: Arkansas, Blue, Cache La Poudre, Canadian, Columbia,
Gila, Green, Laramie, Missouri, Pecos, Platte, Republican, San Pedro, Smokey Hill, Sweetwater]
Canal Books http://www.cyndislist.com/canals.htm
The Rivers of America http://www.broward.org/library/bienes/lii07700.htm
Bibliography of River Books http://www.uni.edu/gai/GAW/Bibliography.htm
~Link to This Site~
You have permission to place a link to this site on your own genealogical or historical web page:
recognized this web site on January 27, 2003, placing it in the category, SOCIAL HISTORY.
See their listing of recommended sites: http://www.familytreemagazine.com/categories.asp
Links to Beverly's Other Migration Web Sites
(1) Migration Patterns -- Beverly's comments and photos about American migration patterns.
Includes a long list of links to web sites featuring roads and trails.
(2) "RoadTrails," brief overview of 18 of our early American roads and trails.
Includes brief historical summaries and a link to a map sketch for each road or trail.
(3) Migration RoadTrails Fact Sheets, expanded to 2 pages each and in PDF format to download
Fact Sheets for the early American roads and trails introduced above in #2. Each road or trail is described in 4 sections: Traffic, Features, Timeline, Route + map sketch.
Genealogy + History + Geography = Enriched Heritage
I am happy for you to share your comments and suggestions, but at the present time, I must limit my responses. Doing genealogical research and editing a genealogical newsletter is keeping me busier than I had expected. I need to reserve time for my volunteer commitments and my own family connections! Turn to libraries and historical societies for some good reading on this subject! Internet links change frequently.
When you find a broken link or when you have a new site to recommend, I will welcome your help in keeping this site current. Send me an email with “Waterways” in the subject line.