River Map Sources

If I were wanting to follow a river, say the Arkansas River from Sedgwick, KS, which appears to be its headwater, to the Mississippi, where would I find information on class of river, nav hazards, obstructions, etc. USCGS maps seem rather restrictive in the areas they cover. Guide books only cover selected rivers. I’ve spent the entire day on the internet searching and can’t seem to find a good source for covering a river from headwater to confluence.

Arkansas River map
Actually I guess that was the Little Arkansas at Sedgwick. The Arkansas appears to continue to Hutchison, and lose its “floatability” between there and Great Bend somewhere. I found that on


I should add, I’m mostly interested in flat to Class I, but would like to find the resources to help me find what areas would be of interest. Thanks.

Local resources
Try finding outfitters that operate on that river. Here, if we go to Blue Mountain Outfitters in Harrisburg, we can pick up the Susquahanna River trail maps.

Try posting to paddling clubs along the river. The Lumber River Canoe Club was immensely helpful to me this spring in planning a trip on the Lumber.

Lastly, that little old lady in the reference section of the library in a community on your river of interest, she’s just waiting for your call.

If there is a river keeper organization functioning for the Arkansas, seems like they’d be able to help, too.

Good luck and don’t forget to post your TR on places to paddle when you get back. That way the next guy will have an easier time of it.


negative info

I realize you are interested in flatwater mostly, but the link above will give you info on a lot of rivers that aren’t flat - so if you find a river on a highway map that you want to check out, you can see if its a whitewater river by going to the AW site.

At least you get some idea, though that does not mean that there aren’t flatwater stretches that you might like.

Another good source is your (or other) state’s Department of Natural Rresources, or whatever it might be called - many states have detailed lists of canoeable water - seek, and you will find.

And perhaps easiest of all, simply google for “canoeing the XYZ river in XX state” and you will find trip reports, blogs, etc that you won’t find elsewhere. all worthwhile “clues”

I check rivers using Google Earth,
on which I can usually see at least most of the obstacles to navigation.

Another way is to go to the USGS water gauge data page and find the “site map” for a gauge on a section of interest. You will be facing a “terrain” map, but you can switch to “satellite,” or “map” for roads, or “hybrid” for named roads superimposed on satellite images. USGS topos are also there, though at busy times they may not come up readily.

You can zoom in and out. You can use the little hand to pull yourself up or down river. Printing is tricky, but it can be done.

There’s much more than I can explain here. I learned by trial and error. But the central fact is that satellite photos have improved, and are often good enough that you can spot an individual kayak on the river !