i'm trying to get the files for Rivers, for most rivers i search for them in the Wizard using name=example and waterway=example and this works fine. For many rivers and canals overpass doesnt seem to be able to find the features and returns as map is left intentionally blank. I tried to use the selection box but then can't open in in QGIS all i need is the river does any one know of any way to get just the river file?

2 Answers 2


You might find it useful to go to OpenStreetmap and zoom to your area of interest, then use the query tool (the Question Mark icon). You don't need to be logged in to use this.

Next, click on or near the water feature you want to examine - a list of candidates will appear on a panel in the left.

You should hopefully be able to find the feature, and click on the link - this should show how the feature has been tagged.

In most cases, rivers should be tagged 'waterway', but it's possible some may have been tagged with something else, like 'natural'

Also - I'm assuming you're using QuickOSM plugin, as you tagged this QGIS? If so, check the 'advanced' settings in query, and make sure you have all types of geometry selected. Some rivers are lines, but more complex rivers (wide rivers with islands for example) can be relations or multipolygons.

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Note that if you leave the value blank, it matches any value for waterway - you don't have to search for canals and streams separately unless you want them in separate layers.

  • Hi cheers for the advice i'm currently running a query for waterways = canal (in QGIS) i'm assuming that this will show me all the canals in an area? the issue i was having(which this may be a good get out of jail card for) was that although the river is tagged in Open Street Map when i search in Overpass Turbo even with just name it wont return the data in OSM, is there a way to boot the data in OSM to Overpass?
    – Rory
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 10:57

Not sure where you are, but if looking for data, one place in the USA is with the state department of roads. Here in Vermont, USA here I am, I find data for some of the work I'm doing here https://www.vtculverts.org/ I image that most every state in the USA has such and expect the same in other countries. The actual rivers and streams can be downloaded from the state Agency of Natural Resources.

  • Sorry Frank, but the data situation outside of the US is far worse than you'd imagine. Often the only publicly available geodata is locked into crappy webviewers and sometimes WMS. Usable vector data is rare.
    – underdark
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 14:28
  • Hi Unfortunatley outside the US in the UK and getting riverine data for the UK was an experience i'd rather not repeat in the future, if it exists its hidden away and there doesn't seem to be an overarching organisation which deals with it
    – Rory
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 10:59
  • I found a site titled diva-gis.org and downloaded data for Macedonia and the UK ( two countries I have some familiarity with) and it's a start. The attribute table is pretty skimpy, but nothing is ever perfect.
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 12:27

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