Theo Rindos

A designer who spent his youth floating on rafts has conjured up a delightful transit guide to America’s waterways.

If any modern-day Huckleberry Finns and Jims wanted to navigate the mighty rivers of America, they’d do well to take along this delightfully crafted guide to waterways that looks like a subway map.

Theo Rindos, a 27-year-old graphic designer and illustrator who lives in greater New York—right along the Hudson River, no less—created the map as an ode to his lifelong love of the water. “I grew up on the Yellowstone River in southwestern Montana. It’s the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States,” he says. “I spent a lot of my childhood floating the river on tubes, rafts, and drift boats. Fly fishing is one my biggest passions and the Yellowstone is one of the best rivers for it.”

Theo Rindos

Rindos pulled data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Google Maps, and Wikipedia, and for his design imperative relied heavily on Harry Beck’s London Tube map from the 1930s, which he calls “complex but very clean.”

“London is a very old city and the streets are not laid out in a grid, but Harry found a way to transform something chaotic into something clean, readable, and beautiful,” he says. “I wanted to take something completely natural and structure it as a transit system, because technically these rivers once were and still are a form of transportation.”

At one end of each “line” you’ll typically find a solid-colored circle representing that river’s source. For example, look for the appropriately mud-tinted Mississippi River’s origins all the way up in Minnesota’s glacial Lake Itasca. Some lines join or divide at white circles, which indicate confluences like where the Columbia River meets up with the Snake in southern Washington. The “stations” dotting the lines are cities and towns that abut the rivers such as Little Rock, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans.

Rindos tried to include the waterways most important to the shipping and transportation sectors, though for aesthetic reasons such as avoiding clutter and weird-looking connections he had to leave some out. (Sorry, snakehead-infested Potomac!) Meanwhile, smaller rivers were demoted to bus routes, like California’s Sacramento River and the South’s Chattahoochee, made immortal in the eponymous 1993 hit featuring a jeans-wearing, water-skiing Alan Jackson talking about the weather being “hotter than a hoochie coochie.”

For folks who’d like to carry this map in their own jeans pocket while ripping around behind a motorboat, the day is not here yet but it might come soon. The paper pamphlet on Rindos’ website is just an illustrated mock up, but the designer says he’s “definitely considering” printing out hard copies, hopefully waterproof, for public enjoyment.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  2. A photo of shoppers in the central textile market of downtown Jakarta.
    Design

    How Cities Design Themselves

    Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

  3. A pupil works on a cardboard architectural model at a Hong Kong primary school.
    Design

    The Case for Architecture Classes in Schools

    Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids. Here’s why.

  4. a photo of New York City subway commuters.
    Perspective

    New York City’s Self-Induced Transportation Crisis

    Bill de Blasio and other city officials are heading for commuting calamity by failing to properly plan a coherent vision for subways, buses, e-bikes, and ride-hailing.

  5. Equity

    Did Jane Jacobs Predict the Rise of Trump?

    Ever prescient, her final book outlined a coming dark age—and how to get through it.