Monday, August 15, 2022

Reviving The ‘Lost’ Higbee Map Of Pennsylvania’s 86,000 Miles Of Streams

By Alexandra McLaughlin,
Penn State News

Interested in exploring new fishing, boating or hiking spots? Curious about how water connects throughout the state? A map featuring Pennsylvania’s 86,000 stream miles is available from Penn State Extension.

The map includes major and minor streams, rivers, lakes, and other water features with labels clear enough to trace the flow of water throughout Pennsylvania.

“This highly detailed map of all the stream miles in Pennsylvania is a really cool and unique resource,” said Jennifer Fetter, water resources extension educator and team leader.

Pennsylvania has more stream miles than any other state apart from Alaska. “It’s hard to walk around Pennsylvania without tripping over a stream,” Fetter said. “It took quite a bit of effort to find, identify and map all of these streams.”

The map details originally were hand-drawn by Howard Higbee, professor of soil science in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences from 1935 to 1966. 

Fetter explained that while Higbee’s primary goal was mapping the soil resources of Pennsylvania, he understood the important role that water plays in soil science.

Higbee struck out to map all of Pennsylvania’s streams. He confirmed the distances by driving around the state with his calibrated car odometer. 

Initially published in 1965, the map was lost for some time, and copies became collector’s items and historical treasures. Vivid Publishing eventually put the map back into print with Penn State Extension offering copies for purchase.

The map could benefit sportfishing enthusiasts, boaters, outdoor explorers and map lovers. It measures approximately 35 inches by 57 inches and folds down to 9 inches by 11 inches.

Along with helping recreational water users and outdoors enthusiasts, the map also could serve as a teaching tool, Fetter pointed out. 

Teachers and environmental educators could use the map to help people better understand their relationship with water by teaching them about the water where they live and the boundaries of their watersheds.

While the map includes other features, such as cities, the streams are the focal point. According to Fetter, this stands in contrast to many maps.

“Most maps are not featuring the streams, but something else — where the roads are, where the cities are, where landmarks, parks and forests are,” she said. “Oftentimes, the little bit of water included in mapping is more of a reference point. Waterways have been fractured and details are missing. It’s not as good of a picture of where streams really are.”

The map is available for $19.95 on the Penn State Extension website.

[How Clean Is Your Stream?

[Professor Higbee’s 1965 count of 86,000 miles of Pennsylvania streams was very, very close to the official 85,568 today.

[To find out how clean all those streams are near you, visit DEP’s 2022 Water Quality Report webpage and zoom in on your watershed.]


(Reprinted from Penn State News.)

[Posted: August 15, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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