If rivers are roads…

A simple map showing rivers as roads and vice versa in Agusan del Sur, Philippines

If your internet connection is weak, just select ‘Way’ and increase your timeout.

Use the QuickOSM plug-in and download highway and waterways. This will extract all the roads and waterways from OpenStreetMap.

Once the layers are downloaded, select your road layer > press Ctrl + k > type ef clip > clip with your land layer. This will directly clip the road layer instead of creating a new clipped layer. This is useful when you have a long-standing project and want to edit a layer without changing it to avoid updating all your layouts.

Tapering a river layer means making it look realistic with the water coming from a watershed, flowing through a river which is naturally wider than its tributaries, and all waterways tapering to its end.

It’s important to dissolve your road layer by its type or else it will look like this.

But what you will taper here is a road network which do not taper to its end and does not come from a “roadshed”. Each road maintains the same width in majority of its length but there is a road classification with primary roads being wider to secondary roads just like rivers to streams.

You can do this using the Geometry Generator symbology which is a powerful tool that for analysis and cartography.

Filter first your roads to only use select type of roads. I used trunk, primary, secondary, and tertiary because these are the roads that are usually interconnected. Dissolve it by type and create a new field named order and use this expression:

WHEN "highway" = 'trunk' then 0
WHEN "highway" = 'primary' then 1
WHEN "highway" = 'secondary' then 2

When it’s filtered, change the road layer’s Symbol layer type to Geometry Generator > add this expression:


Then go to Simple line and change the Stroke width’s value to :

WHEN "order" = 3 THEN .15
WHEN "order" = 2 THEN .3
WHEN "order" = 1 THEN .5
* ( 1- (@geometry_part_num / @geometry_part_count ))

I got this from Anita Graser’s post on the topic. Here is a comparison of the roads styled as rivers and roads styled as roads.

Naturally, rivers do not follow a straight line unlike roads. If you initially style it as a road by making it gray or black, it will still look like a group of rivers and streams.

You first need to “straighten” out the rivers to make them look more like roads. To do this, use the Simplify tool. I forgot what Tolerance value I used but you can start at 10 meters.

Then, style your straightened rivers to look like roads. You can copy this style. I only showed the river and stream features of the river layer. Also, enable Symbol Levels and put a higher value on the river features.

You can see me on LinkedIn and Twitter, and sometimes on OpenStreetMap, and GitHub when I’m productive.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Miguel Imperial

I’m new to the Geo and GIS community. Taught myself QGIS back in June 2019 and just enjoying the journey to wherever I land.