Week of July 23, 2023


Every continent except Antarctica has a “continental divide,” often a mountain range, which separates the direction water flows by rivers and streams into larger water bodies. From this divide, additional hydrological divides often further distribute the water into lakes, seas, and oceans.


While most of the world’s rivers flow southward, there are some very notable exceptions, including the mighty Nile, the world’s longest.


Certain river crossings are famously irrevocable. In mythology, the recently dead are carried across Hell’s River Styx by the ferryman Charon. Julius Caesar, crossing the Rubicon River toward Rome with his army in a forbidden act which he knew would spark a civil war, declared “the die is cast” as he crossed.


As long, defined lines, rivers are a natural choice for political borders. One 2020 study found that rivers constitute 23% of all national borders, 17% of state and provincial borders and 12% of county borders.


The original poem “Over the River and Through the Woods” involved a trip to grandfather’s house, not grandmother’s, and came from an author working to rebuild her career after she was shunned for writing a 1833 book strongly condemning American slavery.


Some rivers run underground naturally, but a surprising number are intentionally buried, typically because they are in the way of urban development. Some of these rivers, buried decades or centuries ago, are now being brought back to the surface.


The first European to discover the Amazon River in 1541 named it for the female warriors of Greek myth because the indigenous groups which confronted and battled him along the river included women.