Ghostly Images Are Actually Maps of Oregon’s Willamette River

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” I can’t speak to the changes within a man, but this stunning poster by Daniel E. Coe illustrates how much rivers transform over time.

If it weren’t for the “Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries” stamp in the top right corner, you’d think you were looking at smoke from a blue flame disappearing into the atmosphere.

These smoke signals are actually digital elevation models generated using a technology called lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. Lidar uses aircrafts and lasers to create hypnotizingly accurate maps of the Earth’s surface. Not only does this technology produce beautiful images, it also assess shoreline weaknesses and plan emergency response operations.

The range of light to dark is representative of the difference in elevation. The lowest points are seen in white, with higher elevations in dark blue. Milkier areas show the history of the river, as it carved out portions of shoreline. 

Data is continuously being collected, and the goal is for the entire state to be covered by lidar. If you want some psychedelic, topographic wallpaper, stay tuned.   


Share this Story