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. A young refugee from Kosovo stands in front of a map of Hungary with her teacher.

    Who Maps the World?

    Too often, men. And money. But a team of OpenStreetMap users is working to draw new cartographic lines, making maps that more accurately—and equitably—reflect our space.

  2. Transportation

    The EU Is Giving Teens a Month of Free Train Travel Across Europe

    The cultural enrichment plan could change young lives, and maybe even revive the heyday of the Interrail train pass.

  3. A LimeBike and LimeBike-S are pictured.

    I Have Seen the Future of Urbanism and It's a Scooter

    While you’re still trying to figure out dockless bikes, there’s a new two-wheeler to share around town. It could be a bigger deal than you think.

  4. Life

    Amazon Go Might Kill More Than Just Supermarkets

    Supermarkets are community anchors. Amazon’s “just walk out” version embodies a disconcerting social transformation.

  5. Videos

    A Wonderfully Clear Explanation of How Road Diets Work

    Planner Jeff Speck leads a video tour of four different street redesigns.