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Available languages — Tag:waterway=river
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Public-images-osm logo.svg waterway = river
Nau im Langenauer Ried 600x450.jpg
The linear flow of a river, in flow direction. Edit or translate this description.
Rendering in openstreetmap-carto
Group: Rivers
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: in use

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=ditch for smaller man-made waterways used for field drainage or irrigation.
  • waterway=drain for larger artificial waterways used for the drainage purposes, typically lined with concrete or similar.

For rivers drawn with more 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

See also: Waterways

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 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.
  • 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=*
  • maxheight=*
  • maxlength=*
  • maxspeed=*

River area

For the body of the water covered by the river, thus indicating the width and shape of the river, see River.

Using relations

When the river is longer, it's good to join its segments (ways) into relation. Like for other complex objects, it reduces the number of data duplication and helps keep them synchronized. Use relation:waterway, where all the common values (like names in different languages, Wikipedia/Wikidata entries, known distance=*, destination=* etc.) can be stored.

Please remember to remove duplicated values from the segments (including waterway=river tag), if they are the same for the whole relation. Segments should be tagged only with values that are specific to them. For example width=* value may belong here, because width of the river usually changes a lot from its source to the mouth.


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

See also