From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Available languages — Tag:waterway=river
Public-images-osm logo.svg waterway = river
Nau im Langenauer Ried 600x450.jpg
For the linear flow of a river, in flow direction.
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasmay be used on relations
Useful combination
Status: Unspecified

Use waterway=river for the linear flow larger natural waterways, in flow direction. Note that the linear ways should form a complete routable description of the watercourse.

Consider if other waterway values are a better match:

  • waterway=stream for small waterways that can be jumped across by a fit adult.
  • waterway=canal for a man-made waterway, created for use by vessels.
  • waterway=drain for smaller man-made waterways used for field drainage.

How to map

See also: Waterways
See also: Whitewater

To map a river make a simple way. Add the waterway=river tag to it. The direction of the way should be downstream (i.e., draw the way in the direction that the river flows).

Just as with highways, it is important that the topology of rivers is correct. That means, if you can go from one part of the river to an other part of the river via the water, there has to be a piece of waterway=* between them. This implies that a way tagged as waterway=river should not stop on the riverbank of another river, but should proceed to the central way of the other river.

Additional tags:

  • name= for the name of the watercourse in the local language if known. For example 'River Thames', 'River Nile' (note that this should be 'River Thames', rather than simply 'Wey').
  • Use the name:xx tag format to add the name of the watercourse in another language, for example name:fr=La Tamise for The Thames.
  • width=* to indicate the width in meters. This is an approximate average width of the river throughout most of length of that bit of river. You can use width=5 or width=5 m to tag a river with a width of 5 meters.
  • depth=* to indicate the depth of the river. This is the maximum depth of the river, averaged over the length of that bit of river.
  • maxwidth=*
  • maxheight=*
  • maxlength=*
  • maxspeed=*

River area

For the body of the water covered by the river, thus indicating the width and shape of the river, draw an area and tag it with natural=water and water=river. Most rivers will need multiple areas to cover the length of the whole river:

Make river.png

Alternatively the traditional waterway=riverbank tag can be used to tag the river area.

waterway=riverbank and natural=water must not be used together for the same object.


Whitewater chart in OpenSeaMap. In Project Whitewater Maps thereare specific objects for kayak- and whitewater enthusiasts. There you find a HowTo for installing the JOSM preset "Watersport".

See also

  • Relation:waterway for drawing long rivers in a relation where you would need several ways connected