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Public-images-osm logo.svg waterway = river
Finlay River emptying into the north end of Williston Lake.jpg
The linear flow of a river, in flow direction. Show/edit corresponding data item.
Rendering in OSM Carto
Group: waterways
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
See also
Status: de facto

Use waterway=river for the linear flow of 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 (suggested value is less than 3 meters).[1]
  • waterway=tidal_channel for natural tidal waterways within the coastal marine environment with bidirectional flow of water, depending on the tides.
  • waterway=canal for a man-made waterway used to carry useful water for transportation, hydropower generation or irrigation purposes
  • waterway=ditch for smaller man-made waterways used to drain nearby land, to remove storm-water or similar (they are often found along roads or on the edges of agricultural fields)
  • waterway=drain for larger artificial waterways used for the drainage purposes, typically lined with concrete or similar.

For rivers drawn with segments sharing multiple attributes (like names in different languages, Wikipedia/Wikidata entries, distance etc.) a relation:waterway should be additionally used to avoid data fragmentation and inconsistencies.

How to map

Main article: River

To map a river, make a simple way 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 another 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', 'Wisła' (note that this should be 'River Thames', rather than simply 'Thames' but 'Wisła' rather than 'Rzeka Wisła'. Both follow locally used name).
  • 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 the 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.
  • CEMT=* – CEMT is a classification for European inland waterways
  • draft=* – Fairway depth
  • intermittent=yes – Indicates that waterway or water body is intermittent
  • tidal=yes – Indicates that the river is in the tidal range
  • maxwidth=* – Maximum width of boat permitted
  • maxheight=* – Maximum height of boat permitted
  • maxlength=* – Maximum length of boat permitted
  • maxspeed=* – Maximum speed permitted for boats

River area

For the body of the water covered by the river, thus indicating the width and shape of the river there is in use natural=water + water=river, for more details see River.

Using relations

When the river is longer, it's common to include its ways in a waterway relation. It may help to keep data synchronized. Use relation:waterway, where all the common values (like names in different languages, Wikipedia/Wikidata entries, known length=*, destination=* etc.) can be stored.


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

See also


  1. For the sake of reference, the current world record is 8.95 meters, and the standing jump world record is 3.73 meters; the suggested value should be somewhere below 3 meters across, which is supported by some data as well.