measuring distance

is there a website that would allow me to look at a map and figure out the distance (number of miles) on a river or creek from point A to point B?


Google maps distance calc

– Last Updated: Oct-09-13 9:34 AM EST –

I use this all the time. Its 'as the crow flies' distance, so it will generally underestimate the distance, and it depends how many points you put in (more points = more accurate) but when Ive compared this to someone's GPS its been fairly accurate, say, within .5 mile on a 10 mile paddle, so +-5 to 10% is a safe bet

Might be able to buy something too
Ages ago I purchased a program called “3-D Topo Quads”. I can’t remember if it’s put out by DeLorme or National Geographic. With that system, you can trace your route around all the bends of the river and get an accurate distance measurement. For a person who likes maps, it might be worth the money. If all you want to do is figure paddling distance now and then, probably not.

I would use Google Earth

– Last Updated: Oct-09-13 10:14 AM EST –

Use their "ruler" feature and select "path". Then just click your way down the river.

Distance - Find My Distance
There’s a free iPhone app called Distance - Find My Distance that will do exactly what you want. Not sure if it’s available for Androids.

Map my run - I use is for running/biking, but have also mapped out some distances on the water.


Garmin Basecamp
Even if you dont own any Garmin gps you could still download Garmin Basecamp, its free. then once you have that installed go to

and get a map for the area you want, also free maps there. Then you can use the measure tool in Basecamp to measure the river distance you want. You can zoom in so you can use many points along the river to get a pretty accurate measurment.

River miles
The old school way is to use a map wheel and follow the main channel on a decent map like a 7 1/2 minute USGS quad. It is the most accurate estimation.


– Last Updated: Oct-10-13 4:53 PM EST –

I have no map wheel, using dividers on a decent scale map works almost as well. You can even do this on a printout of a Google map and obtain decent results using the scale bar included on the lower left of the maps. I sometimes use dividers to scale a route from a map on the computer screen, for that matter, works fine.

Google Earth
Use as mentioned above. Google Earth is one of the greatest things available on the internet.

Ultra low-tech
Another way is to use a thread, string, braided fishing line, something of that nature. Tie knots or make ink marks on the string at the spacing of your map for 1 mi or 5 mi, kilometers, whatever unit appeals to you. Then lay your string on the map following your course on a river or along a lake shore, across the mouth of bays, whatever route you want to take. Count the units and estimate the left over bit.

Its not as accurate as a GPS or most of the other things previously mentioned, but its really really affordable. It works well enough for most purposes that don’t involve race training. You don’t often need to know down to the foot how far you’ve gone or plan to go. It might even be more accurate than some line of sight measurements or measurements made using very few way points.

Ultra low tech, but it’s good enough to give you a reasonable idea of how much time to allow for a day’s paddle or how far it is to the next bridge or take out.

Stream Tracer

You can’t measure point to point with this website (at least not that i am aware of) but if you mark you put in, record the total trace distance, and then do the same with your take out you can do some simple math to figure out the distance.
does what you want