I have the shapefile containing polylines that represent the river. I need to draw generalized straight line approximations of stream lines.

River lines have the following attributes:

  • river_id is a unique identifier;
  • down_id is the river_id of the downstream line;
  • down_node is the downstream node identifier;
  • up_node is the upstream node identifier;
  • type, indicates whether the line is a source, sink or intermediate line.

Any ideas how to do it using ArcGIS Desktop?


2 Answers 2


The 'generalize' feature on the Advanced Editing toolbar may be just what you are looking for... The 'Smooth' tool may work as well...

Generalize will move the lines around based on the maximum offset that you specify (in map units), smooth does basically the same thing but converts vertices into Bezier curves. Both of these are available with an ArcDesktop license so it may be worth experimenting with if you don't have the full ArcInfo set of tools available.

Here is a link to an ESRI blog about the generalize tool: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/esritrainingmatters/2008/11/18/editing-tip-how-to-generalize-a-feature/


ArcGIS has "Collapse Dual lines to Centerline". An ArcInfo or Advanced license is required.

  • 2
    Can you explain why you are suggesting to use this tool since they are talking about creating a "schematic view" of rivers (which are not usually dual line)? Dec 15, 2012 at 2:07
  • @Aga did not mention if the River/Stream is dual line. The title says "River", which is usually dual line. Maybe "Collapse dual lines" isn't needed? A series of Unsplit lines and Smooth lines will remove most of the vertices, helping create straight lines between the junctions.
    – klewis
    Dec 15, 2012 at 21:41

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