Was discussing the terrain and rivers of Europe today with my father and it became apparent that a graph of the elevation versus course of a river would offer interesting insight, including a quick summary into the elevation of various cities of interest along the course, and some loose feel for the possible speed of the river in various spots.

I did find one image fitting the general theme of what I was looking for regarding the upper Mississippi River at an Army Corp of Engineer's website:


But I didn't have any subsequent luck in Googling the terms used there, nor on any additional terms, for rivers like the Rhine and Danube.

Are these along-course cross-sections made enough that there's a name for them?

And if so, is there any resource where such images can readily be found for major rivers worldwide?

  • $\begingroup$ (Even more exciting would be if such graphics also included the volume of water along the course [perhaps either by color-coding or varying the width of the graph's line]... as well as key elements along the course like cities and rivers [including inflow volume!?!] Such a graphic would seem to tell such a rich story about a river in one graphic [even moreso if zoomable]. But I'll take what I can get. And if they don't exist, perhaps it'll be onwards to the GIS forums for direction in making such a graphic happen) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ Just a comment that there is a scale effect in producing these. How tightly does the profile follow the bends in the river? Was it at points along the river with the length measured linearly between the points or how well does the river mile follow the actual course? $\endgroup$
    – haresfur
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


I guess there are multiple names, but I know it as the river's "long profile", and it is used in academic papers (one example here and a search in google scholar here). But you can find similar diagrams under names like the river's height profile, longitudinal profile, longitudinal map or geographic profile. These last two are the ones used in an Australian government web page that have many of those profiles for all major rivers in Australia, with the cities along the river and other information. I'm not aware of a global repository of long profiles.

The following picture is from the same link pointed above (from Geography AS Notes)

enter image description here

A quick search for "Danube long profile" put the following image in the second position of the results

enter image description here

Taken from here

  • $\begingroup$ Boy, can always count on you to bring an amazing answer! You're of great value around here, if it hasn't been said enough :-D $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 4:40
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    $\begingroup$ @JeopardyTempest Thanks! It is my pleasure. I've benefited so much from the SE community that I'm happy to give back in my area of expertise. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 5:02
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with the term "long profile" as well. Used to characterize channels of all sort, including gullies. $\endgroup$
    – marsisalie
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ I see and construct those figures in my daily work and always use the term "longitudinal profile". $\endgroup$
    – 3TW3
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ Good contribution @3TW3 , Thanks! I'll add that to the list in my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 15:12

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