Question
Asked 25th Sep, 2015

Is there an easy method for determining river mile?

I would like to determine the river mile of 25 sites along the Ohio River (USA). I understand that there is an ArcGIS tool for measuring the distance between two points, but I am not sure how accurate this method would be for a river that stretches nearly 1000 miles. Is there an interactive map or GIS data layer that will show river mile by clicking on any point of the river?

Most recent answer

2nd Oct, 2015
Chandana R. Withanachchi
Rajarata University of Sri Lanka
I red this answers, So I agree with them.

Popular answers (1)

26th Sep, 2015
Y. Jun Xu
Louisiana State University
Ben, there are two ways you can find out the river mile along the Ohio River between two locations: 1) using the navigation charts from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and 2) using USGS' Streamer. Let me briefly explain below. 
1) Method 1 - navigation charts: Go to this web: http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Navigation/Charts.aspx. Open any of the nine navigation charts, for example, Charts 1-5. Take a look at the chart index (page 20) and find the chart number for the location you are interested in.  Open that chart and you will see river channel maps with a blue sailing line and blue dots with numbers above. Those numbers are river miles.
2) Method 2 - streamer: Go to this web:
http://nationalmap.gov/streamer/webApp/streamer.html. Zoon in to the area you are interested in. Say, you want to know the distance between Cincinnati and Louisville and you can do the following: click on "Trace Upstream"; click on  Cincinnati and you will see a red line liking the city all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in southeast Louisiana; Now, move your mouse on the red dot at Cincinnati, you will see the total river mile from Cincinnati to the Gulf (i.e., 1580 mi); Now, clink on "Clear Map" and do the same as above for Louisville and you will the river mile from Louisville to the Gulf (i.e., 1443 mi); The difference between these two river miles is the distance between Cincinnati and Louisville.
Hope this helps.    
3 Recommendations

All Answers (8)

26th Sep, 2015
Y. Jun Xu
Louisiana State University
Ben, there are two ways you can find out the river mile along the Ohio River between two locations: 1) using the navigation charts from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and 2) using USGS' Streamer. Let me briefly explain below. 
1) Method 1 - navigation charts: Go to this web: http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Navigation/Charts.aspx. Open any of the nine navigation charts, for example, Charts 1-5. Take a look at the chart index (page 20) and find the chart number for the location you are interested in.  Open that chart and you will see river channel maps with a blue sailing line and blue dots with numbers above. Those numbers are river miles.
2) Method 2 - streamer: Go to this web:
http://nationalmap.gov/streamer/webApp/streamer.html. Zoon in to the area you are interested in. Say, you want to know the distance between Cincinnati and Louisville and you can do the following: click on "Trace Upstream"; click on  Cincinnati and you will see a red line liking the city all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in southeast Louisiana; Now, move your mouse on the red dot at Cincinnati, you will see the total river mile from Cincinnati to the Gulf (i.e., 1580 mi); Now, clink on "Clear Map" and do the same as above for Louisville and you will the river mile from Louisville to the Gulf (i.e., 1443 mi); The difference between these two river miles is the distance between Cincinnati and Louisville.
Hope this helps.    
3 Recommendations
26th Sep, 2015
Y. Jun Xu
Louisiana State University
Oops, I meant click on "Trace Downstream," instead of "Trace Upstream,"  if you use method 2.
26th Sep, 2015
Daniel Pierre
Antea Group
Working more in Europe and in Africa, I do not know where to find the geographical data necessary for it (I guess you have). However, for the cases where you would have no geographical data allowing to realize it, you can create them. Under ArGis for example, you just have to create a "shapefile" and declare the object as polylignes "M" then to size the upstream and the downstream of the river, that is define the starting point "Miles" = 0 and the point to arrive "Miles" = XX miles
28th Sep, 2015
Ben Kreitner
Ball State University
Thank you! This is all very helpful.
30th Sep, 2015
Timothy Assal
Kent State University
Ben,
You might also check the National Hydrography Dataset (http://nhd.usgs.gov/). I suspect this is the same data used in the application suggested by Y. Jun. You can download the data and use it to derive your own data set for your study reaches so you'll have an archive of the data. You can use the calculate the distance of each stream reach and store it as an attribute in a GIS using the length tool. 
Good luck,
Tim
2nd Oct, 2015
Mounir Louhaichi
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
I assume your data is a geodatabase which means the map is linked to the geographic location (XYZ) and the database should have additional information about each feature. if you select the particular river (query or even edit mode) you should be able to read length of the river. Otherwise even in Google earth pro you can digitize on screen and get directly length of the river.
2nd Oct, 2015
Baptiste Hautdidier
French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE)
Short comment on the GIS way, in addition to Daniel, Timothy and Mounir : the feature is called linear referencing in ArcGIS. See here for an explanation and a tutorial: http://resources.arcgis.com/EN/HELP/MAIN/10.2/index.html#//003900000001000000
You should be able to convert your hydrological dataset (here restricted to the Ohio river + its tributaries if you wish) as a route feature class. If I remember well, suffice then to define the point layer with your sites as events, by locating features along routes: http://resources.arcgis.com/EN/HELP/MAIN/10.2/index.html#/Locating_features_along_routes/003900000037000000/
The computation will still depend on the coarseness of the dataset, which is one reason why the precise length of a large river remains often a disputed (and nearly elusive) question... but it's another story!
2nd Oct, 2015
Chandana R. Withanachchi
Rajarata University of Sri Lanka
I red this answers, So I agree with them.

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