Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Rivers

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WikiProject Rivers (Rated Project-class)
WikiProject icon This page is within the scope of WikiProject Rivers, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Rivers on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
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CfD on Category:Rivers of the Boundary Ranges etc[edit]

See Wikipedia:Categories_for_discussion/Log/2014_April_17#Category:Rivers_of_the_Boundary_Ranges on the Categories for discussion page.

Tributary naming convention[edit]

The proposed naming convention at the project page includes:

This seems very odd to me, as in essentially all other areas of Wikipedia, parenthetical identifiers say what kind of thing the topic is (the generic class, subject, or context per WP:NCDAB), not another related concept. For the last, why not St. Joseph River (Maumee River tributary) to make it more like the usual naming conventions? I encountered this in Rio Puerco (Rio Grande) and Rio Puerco (Rio Chama), which seem like such strange and unhelpful titles to anyone not familiar with this project's proposed conventions. Dicklyon (talk) 05:38, 4 January 2017 (UTC)

It looks like this "proposal" is 13 years old. Probably predates WP:NCDAB. Should we consider harmonizing? Dicklyon (talk) 05:48, 4 January 2017 (UTC)

Actually, the idea of parenthetical generic or context is even older (2002). Dicklyon (talk) 05:53, 4 January 2017 (UTC)

Part of the problem is that St. Joseph (Lake Michigan) would not normally be called a tributary of a lake so you would have to have multiple conventions depending on where the mouth of the river is. Rmhermen (talk) 07:15, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
Right, rivers flowing into lakes would need a different appropriate convention; what do you call that? Or maybe the lake name is OK; St. Joseph (Lake Michigan) seems a lot less odd than Rio Puerco (Rio Grande), somehow. Dicklyon (talk) 07:20, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
Agree. The lake disambiguator isn't a problem, the river is. Andrewa (talk) 05:23, 12 April 2017 (UTC)

So maybe I need to open an RM discussion, like Rio Puerco (Rio Grande) -> Rio Puerco (Rio Grande tributary) to get some feedback on the idea? Dicklyon (talk) 01:00, 8 February 2017 (UTC)

@Dicklyon, thank you for starting this discussion and I'm sorry for missing it earlier. Also thanks for starting the RM discussion at Talk:Rio Puerco (Rio Grande). I agree that the existing "River name (River name)" convention results in many "strange and unhelpful titles," as you say, and I'm willing to help with drafting and applying a new convention. I think "River name (Lake name)" constructions aren't as confusing, so the addition of "tributary" may not be necessary, but on the other hand, I don't find the notion of a river being a tributary of a lake to be problematic. (If it is, then the first sentence of the tributary article should be clarified, and we should find new names for Category:Tributaries of Lake Michigan, Category:Tributaries of the Caspian Sea, etc.) Thanks --TimK MSI (talk) 11:10, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for that, and for your support on the RM. I'm easy on the lakes; hopefully we can get a few others with opinions to speak up. Dicklyon (talk) 15:14, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
I really have no preference, but do be aware that the current convention has been widely implemented, so you'd be talking about moving thousands of pages. I'm ok with that, but you'll probably need bot assistance in implementing a change. Kmusser (talk) 17:59, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
If we don't disambiguate rivers by their parent river, how are we going to disambiguate them? The parent river option is at least unambiguous (every river has a parent or flows into a lake or sea). We can't consistently choose an administrative region e.g. county or country, because there will always be rivers that flow through several. The primary aim has to be clear disambiguation; not some Wiki convention. Otherwise the tail is wagging the dog. --Bermicourt (talk) 18:33, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
  • Although it may not be appropriate to disambiguate rivers by political subdivision as a first choice, I believe there will be situations requiring disambiguation on that basis. Large bodies of water, like the Atlantic Ocean, may have multiple small rivers of some common names like Big, Little, Muddy, or Salt River. In situations where the river may flow through several subdivisions, the subdivision containing the mouth of the river would seem a logical choice, with the option of (State/State) if the mouth of the river forms a political boundary. Thewellman (talk) 17:53, 7 April 2017 (UTC)
Nobody in this discussion has proposed that we not disambiguate rivers by their parent river. The discussion has followed from the observation that adding the word "tributary" to such disambiguations -- i.e., "River A (River B tributary)" instead of "River A (River B)" -- would make the meaning of the title clearer to general readers, and better align with conventions in place for other topics. --TimK MSI (talk) 18:41, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
Surely if the disambiguator contains the word "river" or is well known (e.g. Rio Grande) it's obvious and so adding tributary is superfluous. In fact it's confusing because it could be read as River A is part of a tributary of River B. I'd leave it. Otherwise why not go for "Dallas, Texas state" etc? --Bermicourt (talk) 18:50, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
BTW if you check out WP:PLACE you can see that it's standard Wiki practice to disambiguate geographical articles by another geographical entity without stating what that is. So if we want to change the thousands of river articles by adding "tributary", we should think about whether this is setting an uncomfortable precedent for thousands of other geographical articles. Bermicourt (talk) 18:50, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
Most rivers aren't well known. I think the meaning of a construction like Dogwood Creek (Little Indian Creek) is opaque, and that it would be approximately one gazillion times clearer if you simply added the word "tributary." ----TimK MSI (talk) 19:02, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
I don't think a change would impact the other geographic articles, most of them the feature being used to disambiguate isn't the same type as the topic as in Feature (Province) so there's no confusion, only with rivers is it River (River) so I can see where it might confuse unless you're already familiar with wiki conventions - but then again for most river articles disambiguated this way it's explained in the first sentence, so I'm not sure it's needed either. Kmusser (talk) 19:18, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
@TimK. Most readers would understand "Little Indian Creek" to be... a creek. Adding tributary just adds confusion because we've now disambiguated Dogwood Creek to a tributary of Little Indian Creek. This is one that's best left alone. As Kmusser says, if a reader is really unclear, s/he just needs to read (normally) the first sentence of the lede. To be frank, Wikipedia's dab convention is mainly there to separate article titles from one another; the word in brackets is not meant to be a dictionary definition. So in some ways, the shorter it is the better. Bermicourt (talk) 19:31, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
It seems to me that a closer adherence to those principles -- that disamiguation conventions are intended mainly to distinguish among articles, that there isn't a particular requirement that the disambiguation method fully define the topic, and that brevity in disambiguation is good -- would encourage a return to the old practice from years ago of disambiguating rivers by the jurisdiction at the mouth, wherever possible. Thus, Rock River (Mississippi River) would return to Rock River (Illinois), and Wills Creek (North Branch Potomac River) would return to Wills Creek (Maryland). These titles would be fully disambiguate the articles from all other articles, using the names of large and well-known geographic entities to do so, and readers would be able to ascertain by reading the articles' leads that the Rock River also flows through Wisconsin, and that Wills Creek also flows through Pennsylvania. Right?
(Personally, I've come to think that "Rock River (Wisconsin and Illinois)" and "Wills Creek (Pennsylvania and Maryland)" would be friendliest to readers, but oh well.)
I really do think that for many Wikipedia readers who have not been and never will be editors, who are encountering articles about rivers randomly, "in the wild," during the course of non-river-centric personal research on Wikipedia -- i.e., linked from, say, an article about a city or a historical event (and not from the bird's-eye view of a list or category of rivers) -- blind encounters with titles like Beaver Run (County Line Branch) or Seven Mile River (East Brookfield River) or Little Satilla River (Satilla River) have a high potential for being unnecessarily distracting interruptions to the experience of browsing and reading the encyclopedia. Wouldn't a common first impression for such readers be that the name in parentheses represents a variant name of the first name? And then we make them do the work of figuring out why that (entirely understandable and predictable) first impression was incorrect. I think it would be kind to our readers to try to find ways to lessen the potential for confusion and distraction wherever possible. Thanks--TimK MSI (talk) 17:57, 7 April 2017 (UTC)

Well, I've just closed the test RM as moved, unanimous in fact, so it looks to me like there's no problem. Andrewa (talk) 05:29, 12 April 2017 (UTC)

Well I and most of the editors in this discussion missed the test RM, so I don't think we should now move all similar river articles on the basis of an agreement after 7 days by one editor on one article. This discussion hasn't achieved consensus; it's a major move involving potentially thousands of articles and I think it's totally unnecessary and potentially confusing. --Bermicourt (talk) 13:44, 12 April 2017 (UTC)
I agree. We should make some definite proposals here and see what has consensus, not have one small RM be taken as decisive. I had hoped that people who cared would have seen this discussion, and where it mentioned the RM, and would have joined in, but that didn't happen. Dicklyon (talk) 19:54, 12 April 2017 (UTC)



  • 2. is what I proposed; it makes sense to me. Dicklyon (talk) 21:47, 22 April 2017 (UTC)

Make it an RFC?[edit]

Not getting any action here. Should we do an RFC? Dicklyon (talk) 02:58, 27 April 2017 (UTC)

Done. Dicklyon (talk) 03:20, 27 April 2017 (UTC)

RfC on Rivers: updating the naming/disambiguation conventions[edit]

Should the old proposed conventions for how to disambiguate river names be updated, as proposed above? In particular, these options are on the table:

Dicklyon (talk) 03:19, 27 April 2017 (UTC)


  • Option 2, per the recent nearly-ignored RM discussion at Talk:Rio Puerco (Rio Grande tributary) and the discussion in the section above. Dicklyon (talk) 03:19, 27 April 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 2 in cases where disambiguation by tributary is the only option available for sufficient disambiguation, per the above RM discussion and my comments in the discussion above. --TimK MSI (talk) 10:31, 27 April 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 1 per WP:PLACE and the usual Wiki convention for disambiguation. It's normal to disambiguate geographical articles by their parents without having to add a descriptor e.g. we disambiguate "Mountain (Range)" not "Mountain (Range mountain)" or "Mountain (mountain in the Alps)" If we go with Option 2, we either need to change how we dab millions of articles or explain why rivers are so special we have to name what they are in parenthesis. --Bermicourt (talk) 16:50, 30 April 2017 (UTC)
Comment: It's easy to explain "why rivers are so special" in this regard: The situation is distinct because here the disambiguator is of an identical class of physical feature to the feature being disambiguated. "Red Mountain (Wolf Mountain)" reads as though Wolf Mountain is a variant name of Red Mountain. Fortunately we don't have an article by that title. "Red River (Wolf River)" reads similarly, and unfortunately we do have an article by that title. There isn't anything in any guideline or policy that forces us to blindly adhere to a titling practice that results in such obvious potential for misunderstanding of a title's meaning. --TimK MSI (talk) 19:33, 30 April 2017 (UTC)
No it isn't distinct. There are plenty of articles where it's impossible to tell just from the title what the article type is or what the disambiguator type is. To take a random example: Serra da Boa Vista (Minas Gerais) gives no clues as to what it's about unless you speak Portuguese or know the outbacks of Brazil. But it doesn't matter because the first sentence clears it up. Following the logic here we would have to change it to Serra da Boa Vista (Minas Gerais mountain), which is seriously confusing: does "mountain" refer to Serra de Boa Vista or Minas Gerais? The same is true with the Option 1. So to make it really clear it would have to be called something like Serra da Boa Vista (mountain in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais). Option 1 is wordy, ugly and totally unnecessary for any reader who bothers to read beyond the title. --Bermicourt (talk) 10:34, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
The example you cite is of the format Mountain Name (State Name), and I don't think anybody is arguing (or is likely to argue) that this format is problematic. River Name (River Name) presents a distinct potential for misreading that River Name (State Name) or Mountain Name (Range Name) does not. --TimK MSI (talk) 11:27, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
  • I stand by my comments above with being fine with either Option 1 or Option 2 (Option 3 sounds clumsy to me, and would be problematic when the mouth is at a border), a reminder that Option 1 is already implemented, if Option 2 is chosen please follow through and change everything so we don't have a mix of styles - it isn't millions of articles that would change, but it is over a thousand. Kmusser (talk) 03:06, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
    I'm happy to help if we change conventions. It won't all happen at once. Dicklyon (talk) 03:59, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
    I will help as well. --TimK MSI (talk) 11:27, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 2. Tony (talk) 07:56, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 2 if this is understood to apply only in those cases where the river isn't wholly in a single political unit. In those cases, the political unit should take precedence (see below).--Nilfanion (talk) 07:53, 3 May 2017 (UTC)
    Both Rio Puercos are wholly in New Mexico, right? So how does this apply? Dicklyon (talk) 04:02, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
    So you then in those cases go down to main-stem disambiguation (using option 2). If one Rio Puerco was in New Mexico and the other in Colorado, then you'd be using the states.--Nilfanion (talk) 09:30, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 2. An editor above stated "There are plenty of articles where it's impossible to tell just from the title what the article type is" (as if that's optimal) followed by "it doesn't matter because the first sentence clears it up". I have to strongly object to that approach to article titles -- "Just name it any old thing, they can read the article if they want to know what the article is about". Besides being unfriendly to the reader and wasting her time, lots of times article titles come up in lists, particularly lists of search results (here or Google), list articles, category pages, and so forth. You need to know if its probably what you want, or not. Herostratus (talk) 18:26, 3 May 2017 (UTC)
And be flexible is reasonable too. I'm OK with that also. There are times, though, when it's best to at least suggest a recommended usual default (with of course exception allowed), so as not to leave the editor deciding on a title completely at sea. Herostratus (talk) 01:39, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Be flexible - Allow all of the above, and others - use common sense, and determine the best disambiguation on a case by case basis. If one form of disambiguation does not work well, use another. Blueboar (talk) 10:35, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Be flexible - Editors should be encouraged to name articles using disambiguation conventions appropriate to the specific situation. No useful purpose would be served by launching a major re-naming effort to conform to an arbitrary standard. Thewellman (talk) 15:14, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
Would you say option 1 or option 2 is better? They use the same form of disambiguation (the main stem river).--Nilfanion (talk) 11:37, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
Rephrasing Nilfanion's question, the discussion here is being driven by the specific question of whether one of the "arbitrary standards" currently in widespread use -- titles of the format River Name (River Name) -- has a sufficiently clear meaning to readers. --TimK MSI (talk) 17:31, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
Under the assumption these weren't rhetorical questions, I'll suggest neither is preferable in all circumstances. If the purpose of disambiguation is to help a reader find information of interest, the disambiguator should be something understood by most readers. Some river names are widely known and readily recognized, while others may be obscure or ambiguous. (Suck) with river and tributary modifiers may remain less useful than (Danube). Thewellman (talk) 07:55, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

Threaded discussion[edit]

I can see a few potential issues here, which can all be seen in the rivers listed at River Avon:

  1. How to disambiguate when the river isn't a tributary, but flows directly into the sea?
First choice is name of that sea/lake, bay, cove, gulf, harbor, strait, etc. bearing a different name than the river. Second choice might be name of a land feature like a continent, island, peninsula, mountain peak/range, or valley/basin bearing a different name from the river. Third choice (or possibly second for widely identified cities or states) is name of the largest political subdivision containing only one river of that name. Thewellman (talk) 15:14, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
That doesn't reflect the status quo at all, as political subdivision is by far the most common disambiguator: Not one of the rivers in Category:Rivers of Southern California uses the the body of water it flows into (except when its another river), but many use "California" - that suggest political units come first and we only go to something else if that fails. To switch the preference order from state before sea to sea before state, would only encourage a major re-naming effort to conform to an arbitrary standard :)--Nilfanion (talk) 01:39, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
  1. In practice, political-unit disambiguation is generally preferred to main stem river - if the river is wholly in a single unit. This also avoids the problem with non-tributaries.
  2. Because some names are highly ambiguous, there may be commonly used natural disambiguation. The 2 most important British Avons are often called the "Bristol Avon" and the "Warwickshire Avon". But the most common name for both is "River Avon"; not sure on best approach with those two to be honest.
  3. The British convention to use comma disambiguation (which would only apply to political unit disambiguation)

The RFC as written seems to want to replace the entire "proposed convention", instead of clarifying the 3rd point alone (about main stem disambiguation).--Nilfanion (talk) 07:53, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

Yes, good. My intent was really only to change how tributaries are disambiguated with their main stem rivers. When a river flows into some other body than another river, it might be called a tributary or something else. No opinion on that yet. Dicklyon (talk) 04:00, 4 May 2017 (UTC)

The status quo proposed convention[edit]

The RFC is to replace the line that says "A river can be identified uniquely as a tributary of another river" in this old proposal on the project page:

Because there are lots of rivers in the world with the same name (e.g. the Columbia River has two tributaries named the Salmon River, another flows into the lower Fraser River and one more has been identified in Nova Scotia), not all of which are recent namings in the Americas (e.g. there are four rivers in England called River Avon), the following method of disambiguation is proposed:

Article needed[edit]

We have no article for the Pumpum River which include Kintampo waterfalls where a deadly accident just occurred. Anyone up for writing one? Rmhermen (talk) 20:29, 20 March 2017 (UTC)

Tributary sorting in basin categories[edit]

Until recently, a large number of basin categories, mainly in Europe, had their rivers sorted by stream order (see here for a German Wiki example of the Moselle basin. Note that, within their stream order, the rivers still sort alphabetically. Unfortunately a recent technical change was made to the way categories are sorted numerically which inadvertently screwed up stream orders so that all rivers in a basin are just grouped under the heading "0-9" (see the English version of the Moselle basin category here). Despite objections, it is now set in stone. The same problem has happened on French Wikipedia.

However, all is not lost as there are ways round it. For example, we could still use the format [[Foo Basin|xFoolet]] to group tributaries by stream order. For example, if first order streams are given the letter "A" after the pipe (instead of "1" as before) and second order streams the letter "B", etc, they would still be grouped in stream order and the text on the category page can explain the key as before. That's one option; you may come up with a better one.

I want to stress that I'm not wanting to pressurise anyone to use this system - I believe we should have the editorial freedom to decide. Currently, it's mainly European rivers where editors use stream order. But where it is used, it makes sense to have a common system. I'm willing to amend the basin categories for German rivers to enable this, but don't want to waste time doing this if there is downstream (pardon the pun!) opposition that undoes all my efforts again. Bermicourt (talk) 17:22, 15 April 2017 (UTC)

  • I don't disagree with your assessment of the stream order system for European rivers, where I think it would work well for many river systems. I am less certain it would be appropriate in other locations. I think we previously discussed the North American situation of rivers flowing through multiple lakes and being renamed upstream and downstream of each lake. How would you envision designating order to streams between lakes, or perhaps to the lake itself for relatively long, narrow lakes?
While Europe has a fairly long recorded history, more recently developed areas may have poorly documented drainage patterns and names. Subterranean flow through Karst terrain or lava tubes might be an example. Drainage changes effected for irrigated agriculture or for agricultural conversion of wetlands might be another. How flexible would your proposed categorization scheme be for situations where stream order may be changed as new articles appear for tributaries unrecognized at the time of initial categorization? Thewellman (talk) 22:30, 15 April 2017 (UTC)
  • Thanks, you pose two really good questions: "how do we work out the stream order for complicated situations?" and "what if the data are unavailable?". Firstly I would say, let's only use stream order categorization if the river basin is well documented. If there are no data or we're unsure, the tributaries will just be listed alphabetically along with all lakes, canals, reservoirs, bogs, wetlands, etc. If only one or two streams in a basin are problematic, we could use the letter "U" for "unclassified". In most cases, the system is easy to use because most river articles shown the progression to the sea and the name of the river, lake or sea at the mouth. I tend to follow the stream order at German Wikipedia because someone's already worked it out. But I don't think we should feel under compulsion to use it; it's just a useful added extra where the data are known. ☺ --Bermicourt (talk) 16:00, 16 April 2017 (UTC)
  • If we were to test your proposed categorization scheme on a single river system to assess user response, can you suggest a user-friendly format to readily distinguish that river system from other river systems? It seems such differentiation might be required on a larger scale if the test were successful. Thewellman (talk) 00:37, 17 April 2017 (UTC)
This is the sort of things that lists are good for and categories are not. They both have their strengths which is why we retain both systems. Rmhermen (talk) 03:53, 17 April 2017 (UTC)
I agree that lists (and in particular sortable tables) would be a better place for communication of stream order. --TimK MSI (talk) 10:39, 27 April 2017 (UTC)
  • IMO it would be more sensible to use the order the tributaries physically enter the main stream: For the Mississippi, this would list the Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio in the order "Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas". That's also a heck of a lot easier to work out than stream order (its simple by looking at a map). However, that will mix up the major and minor tributaries. Two logical, but distinct, orders strongly indicates that the default, alphabetical order is preferred.--Nilfanion (talk) 08:12, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

Another section should be proposed[edit]

Another section should be proposed per this guide, somewhere between Natural history, Geology and Economy, we should have section which describes river "Ecology" and/ or "Protection status", "Natural value or evaluation" or something like that. It shouldn't be confused with either of these three existing section, simply because it could/should discuss eventual impact described within those, among other --౪ • • • ౪• • • 99° ४ 23:38, 2 May 2017 (UTC)