Lonely Planet Writer

Australia's 1.3 million rivers and streams are mapped out in these beautiful images

When you think of Australia, rivers and streams are not usually what springs to mind…until now. Robbi Bishop-Taylor plotted all the streams and rivers in Australia using data from Geoscience Australia. The result is a surprising and beautiful view of the driest continent in the world.

A view of all Australia rivers and streams.
A view of all Australia’s rivers and streams. Image by Robbi Bishop-Taylor

The first image is of all of Australia’s 1.3 million streams. If you’re thinking it looks a little blue, you’d be right.95% of these streams are transitory, meaning they only flow once every few months, years, decades or even centuries. Most of the time, the flow is caused by floods. Robbi explains that “it’s a characteristic feature of much of Australia: so many of our species and ecosystems have evolved to bunker down during drought and then explode in numbers during floods: ‘boom and bust’ ecology.”

Goldfields-Esperance, Western Australia
Goldfields-Esperance, Western Australia Image by Robbi Bishop-Taylor

The streams are all weighted by whether they flow all year round or not and also by hierarchy (so major rivers will have a bigger weighting than minor tributaries). Robbi is careful to point out that the map only contains streams and rivers as “billabongs, waterholes, lakes and swamps could be a whole new map!”

North-West Queensland
North-West Queensland

On request from a Reddit user, Robbi also mapped out Australia with just the permanent water sources – all 50,000 of them. The result is strikingly different.

Robbi also mapped out Australia's permanent rivers and streams. The result is a little different.
Robbi also mapped out Australia’s permanent rivers and streams. The result is a little different. Image by Robbi Bishop-Taylor

Even with all the transitory streams included, there are still huge swathes of land where no water ever flows, a stark reminder of some of Australia tougher and more barren landscapes. 85% of people live on the coast in Australia with huge expanses of land virtually uninhabited.

By popular demand, you can now purchase digital prints of the maps which are suitable for printing onto larger canvases. Robbi has promised to take a look at other countries so keep an eye out for more beautiful data in the future.