Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rivers of Many Colors

After I wrote yesterday about those Red River Hogs, who turned out not to live by a Red River at all, I started thinking about the names of rivers and about how rivers come in lots of different colors.  Or at least you would think so by reading their names.  So I found a list of rivers in the U.S., and what I learned was (1) lots of the same names get used over and over again, (2) there are no Purple, Pink, or Chartreuse rivers,  and (3) I would not want to fall into any of these rivers because I would probably drown!

The Red River in Texas
So anyway, I started with the Red River, since I knew there was a Red River that we always cross when we are going to Texas.  And this Red River makes a border between Oklahoma and Texas.  But what I also found out was that there are Red Rivers or parts of Red Rivers in 13 states!  Besides which, two states have a Little Red River, Montana has a Redwater River, and Michigan has a River Rouge.  And then there are the Vermillion Rivers -- because vermillion is just a fancy way of saying red -- and 7 states have Vermillion Rivers.

Oh, and you also have to count the Colorado River, which means red in Spanish, and it goes through 6 states.  Then there's a Blood River in Tennessee and Kentucky, and several rivers are named for fruit which is red, such as cranberries, cherries, strawberries, and mulberries.

Black River, Arizona
Another popular color for rivers is black.  There are 13 states with a Black River, and Mississippi has a Big Black River.  Nine states have Blackwater Rivers, and 2 states have a Little Blackwater.  Also there's a Carbon River in Washington, a Coal River in West Virginia, and a Tar River in North Carolina.  And those rivers are probably kind of a black color, too, if they really have carbon, coal, and tar in them.

White River, Nevada

There are also a bunch of White Rivers.  In fact, 15 states have them, and South Dakota has a Little White River.  There are Whitewater Rivers in 5 states, and Texas has a Blanco River.

Milk River, Montana
In Montana there's a Milk River.  I thought maybe this river got its name because someone spilled milk in it or a cow fell in it or something, but it turns out that Captain Meriwether Lewis gave the river that name because he really thought it looked like milk.  He wrote in his journal that "the water of this river possesses a peculiar whiteness, being about the colour of a cup of tea with the admixture of a tablespoonfull of milk.  from the colour of its water we called it Milk river."

Platte River, Nebraska

Silver is a color that's pretty close to white, and there are several silver rivers, but mostly their names are in French.  Five states have a Platte River, and one has a Little Platte.  Also there is a La Plata River in Colorado and New Mexico.  Three states have Silver Creeks, but nobody has a Silver River in English.

There aren't any Gold Rivers either, which you would think there might be because people used to try to find gold in rivers.  There's a Goldwater, but that was a senator's name, not a river.  There is a town called Gold River in California, but it doesn't seem to have an actual gold river in it.  The closest thing to a gold river, I guess, is a Yellow River, and you can find that name in 7 states.  Not to mention in China, but I'm just talking about the U.S. right now.

Green River, Utah
There are lots of places with Green Rivers, like for instance 10 different states.  Also there's a Greenwater River in Washington, a Big Green and a Little Green in Wisconsin, and a Verde in Arizona.  Kansas and Oklahoma share a river called the Verdigris, which is that green stuff that forms on copper.  The word verdigris means "the green of Greece" in Old French.

Blue River, Oregon
Okay, then you have your Blue Rivers, which run through 7 states.  Three states have Big Blues, and 3 states also have Little Blues.

There are no Brown Rivers, which is kind of surprising, since a lot of rivers look brown if they have mud and stuff in them.  Idaho has a Bruneau River, but this might been somebody's last name and not a description of the river.  But there's a Mud River in Kentucky and West Virginia, and a Muddy River in Nevada.

Rainbow Spring and the Rainbow River, Florida
I think that maybe the very best river color name of all is in Florida, where they have the Rainbow River.  Because why should you limit your river to one color, when you can have all the colors of the rainbow?


  1. Thank you, this was a beautiful, colorful informative read.

    1. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment.