How do they travel inland along rivers from the ocean / sea?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


I'm running a campaign in Sargava, and one of the things in the "Sargava: The Lost Colony" book mentions that the Korir River is used by trade ships both to to/from Kalabuto to/from Port Freedom. How is this possible, as rivers generally flow from the inland out to the ocean/sea. There are some occasions that a river flows inland. Regardless, rivers don't flow both ways at a time. So which way does the Korir River flow?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Um... all rivers flow downhill; that usually means they flow out to sea. Water doesn't flow uphill, meaning that rivers of seawater don't flow inland.

If a river is navigable, riverboats can travel both upstream and downstream, whether by sail, oars, or towed by draft animals on shore.

That's true on the real world, and is presumably true in Golarion.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Going up river requires the use of sails, oars or animal towing and was the basis of commerce up until the building of railways.
The speed of most navigable rivers water flow is fairly slow so it is not a huge factor in how fast boats move along the river, faster flowing rivers are often shallow or otherwise unsuitable for navigation


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Most large rivers (i.e., the ones usually marked on setting maps) are frequently deep enough for many sea-going ships to navigate with few problems for at least some part of their length. The Mississippi/Ohio river system in the Midwest USA can handle large freight vessels for quite a bit of it's length, which makes it extremely important for transport. In fact, many large rivers are estuaries (i.e., affected by tides) for long distances from their mouths, which means the flow is fairly slow and the river channel is still close to sea-level; IIRC, the Hudson River is an estuary all the way to Albany.


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Millefune wrote:
How is this possible, as rivers generally flow from the inland out to the ocean/sea. There are some occasions that a river flows inland. Regardless, rivers don't flow both ways at a time. So which way does the Korir River flow?

Rivers never flow from the sea inland, at least not on Earth, that is a geological impossibility, they only flow from inland to the sea. Don't know where you got the crazy idea that it could be the other way around?!

Tides can move water into the mouth of a river from the sea, turning fresh water brackish with the mix of salt water, but even then the flow of the river still goes out to sea, only the water level rises when tides are in.

Believe me, aside from being a professional cartographer and a geology minor, at the Cartographers' Guild website, one of my badges as a forum member is the "river police" whose job it is to help newbie mappers correct geologic mistakes, especially rivers, because so many seem to screw rivers up. And actually of all the river issues I've run into, you're the first person to ever suggest that rivers might flow backwards. (Which as stated they never do.)

You don't need a motor to move a ship upstream. Just because a river flows to the sea, doesn't mean you cannot have a vessel sailing upstream, ships have been doing that for several thousand years. Wind power is often stronger than the current of a river - though it sometimes helps to have oars like a viking ship to accomplish this.


Dragonchess Player wrote:
Most large rivers (i.e., the ones usually marked on setting maps) are frequently deep enough for many sea-going ships to navigate with few problems for at least some part of their length. The Mississippi/Ohio river system in the Midwest USA can handle large freight vessels for quite a bit of it's length, which makes it extremely important for transport. In fact, many large rivers are estuaries (i.e., affected by tides) for long distances from their mouths, which means the flow is fairly slow and the river channel is still close to sea-level; IIRC, the Hudson River is an estuary all the way to Albany.

Definitely true, consider that WW2 LSTs - large ocean going landing craft were constructed in Marseilles, IL (not far from where I live) and that town is located in north central Illinois, only about 80 miles from Chicago, which is hundreds of miles from the ocean. Marseilles is on the Illinois River which flows into the Mississippi.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Millefune wrote:
I'm running a campaign in Sargava, and one of the things in the "Sargava: The Lost Colony" book mentions that the Korir River is used by trade ships both to to/from Kalabuto to/from Port Freedom. How is this possible, as rivers generally flow from the inland out to the ocean/sea. There are some occasions that a river flows inland. Regardless, rivers don't flow both ways at a time. So which way does the Korir River flow?

First of all... previous posters are right. You can navigate boats and ships upriver via sails, oars, or towing. There are the rare few magical boats as well that have their own unique propulsion. If you see us say that ships can travel from point A to point B via river trade, you can safely assume the river is deep enough for trade to flow both directions; no waterfalls, shallows, rapids, or other things get in the way.

Also, I threw together this quick image a while back to help folks visualize the direction of flow of the three branches of the Sellen River.


Cool beans. Thanks for the replies, everyone. As I have no ranks in Knowledge (Geography) or Profession (Boatman), I didn't realize that big trade rivers' flow was so slow that a big boat could sail or be rowed upriver. I figured it was either by motor (not really a big part of the setting world) or the whole animal pulling along the shore (which I thought would be really slow and require a crazy large amount of animals). Anyway, thanks for everyone's time. Now I can accurately describe how the boat they'll be on is traveling upriver.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Not sure if its factual as I have no ranks either, but Paizo does describe this in the 2nd Giantslayer adventure. There is a stable of eight heavy horses to tow a rather large boat upstream at a listed 1 mile per hour.

Scarab Sages

Over the course of geologic time, some rivers have flowed in opposite directions. On our day-to-day timescale, of course, they only flow one way.

Some people also refer to the Nile as "running backwards", because unlike most of the other huge rivers of the world, it flows from South to North. In reality, it flows downhill from the interior of the continent to the sea, like any other river. It just so happens that for the Nile, downhill is northward, whereas for a river like the Mississippi, downhill is southward.

Either of these ideas could confuse people about rivers flowing inland.

Thanks for the diagram, Mr. Jacobs. That should help a lot of Kingmaker GMs figure out which way the Sellen flows through the Stolen Lands.


KarlBob wrote:

Over the course of geologic time, some rivers have flowed in opposite directions. On our day-to-day timescale, of course, they only flow one way.

Some people also refer to the Nile as "running backwards", because unlike most of the other huge rivers of the world, it flows from South to North. In reality, it flows downhill from the interior of the continent to the sea, like any other river. It just so happens that for the Nile, downhill is northward, whereas for a river like the Mississippi, downhill is southward.

Either of these ideas could confuse people about rivers flowing inland.

Thanks for the diagram, Mr. Jacobs. That should help a lot of Kingmaker GMs figure out which way the Sellen flows through the Stolen Lands.

In the US its stated that all rivers west of the continental divide flow west to the sea, and all rivers east of it flow east or south to the sea. The Vermillion River, a small tributary to the Ilinois River flows from southeast to northwest - the only known exception to that "rule".


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Actually, there are several rivers in North America that flow northward. Off the top of my head, i can think of two: The Niagara River flows northward, from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario; and the St. Johns River in Florida.


The Red River between MN and ND flows pretty much straight north into Lake Winnipeg.


Well see, the continental divide proponents got it all wrong! :P

One of my favorite rivers is the New River in Virgina, it completely cuts a chasm through the Appalachians - which most rivers never pass through a mountain range, however, the New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world having existed before the rise of the Appalachians on Pangaea, hence why it cuts through the mountains.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Rivers only ever flow left to right.


James Jacobs wrote:
Rivers only ever flow left to right.

Well it depends on which bank your standing on - it is the other way on the opposite bank... ;)


Through the Twin Cities, the MS River flows SE, then S, then NE, then back SE. The "West Bank" of the river in St. Paul is actually south. West St. Paul is on the west bank of the river from St Paul, but is actually south of the city (neighboring South St. Paul).

Also, the Minnesota River starts flowing SE, then turns NE, and flows north into the MS River in the Twin Cities area.

Grand Lodge

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Millefune wrote:
I'm running a campaign in Sargava, and one of the things in the "Sargava: The Lost Colony" book mentions that the Korir River is used by trade ships both to to/from Kalabuto to/from Port Freedom. How is this possible, as rivers generally flow from the inland out to the ocean/sea. There are some occasions that a river flows inland. Regardless, rivers don't flow both ways at a time. So which way does the Korir River flow?

It's done by flat bottom river boats and usually the most practical way move them is by animal towage usually oxen as you're looking for pulling capacity, not speed. This was also true for artificial canals such as the Deleware-Raritan Canal in New Jersey, which ran inland from Raritan's Landing (now known as Landing Lane) in New Brunswich to Princeton and Trenton. The road that the oxen or other draft animal would use is called a towpath.

The Deleware and Raritan State Park in New Jersey preserves much of the towpath of the Deleware-Raritan Canal. It's a popular bike path.


Haladir wrote:

Actually, there are several rivers in North America that flow northward. Off the top of my head, i can think of two: The Niagara River flows northward, from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario; and the St. Johns River in Florida.

Plus the Fox River flows north to Lake Michigan!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
default wrote:
Haladir wrote:

Actually, there are several rivers in North America that flow northward. Off the top of my head, i can think of two: The Niagara River flows northward, from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario; and the St. Johns River in Florida.

Plus the Fox River flows north to Lake Michigan!

Tidal rivers, like the Raritan and the Hudson, actually flow both ways. When the tide comes in, there is a net push inland for a few miles of their lengths. Than of course it reverses with the tide.


I just want to add the following:
When the river is large enough and deep enough, the water on the surface looks calm, but the water is flowing at higher speeds deeper in..

Example of that:
Nile river, Amazon river, Congo river.

These rivers have "calm" zones that are easily navigated for miles, all you need is favorable winds and/or manpower/machines to move the boat around.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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gamer-printer wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Rivers only ever flow left to right.
Well it depends on which bank your standing on - it is the other way on the opposite bank... ;)

Nah. If the river seems to be flowing right to left, you just know that you're on the incorrect bank for proper observation of the river. Wade on over to the other side!


default wrote:
Haladir wrote:

Actually, there are several rivers in North America that flow northward. Off the top of my head, i can think of two: The Niagara River flows northward, from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario; and the St. Johns River in Florida.

Plus the Fox River flows north to Lake Michigan!

Really? Because I live at the terminus of the Fox River, which merges into the Illinois River and it flows south, then southwest (I'm from Ottawa, IL).

There's a River Monsters episode (TV show) where Asian carp (which has taken over the Illinois and Fox) is jumping out of the water and knocking fisherman in the head, because that's what they do - and it was shot right in my hometown.

Now, the Chicago River flows into Lake Michigan, even though it didn't use to, the Army Corps of Engineers changed that. Perhaps that's what you meant. I know the Fox flows past Chicago, from Wisconsin, but I see the Fox everyday, so I know it ends here.


gamer-printer wrote:
default wrote:

Plus the Fox River flows north to Lake Michigan!

Really? Because I live at the terminus of the Fox River, which merges into the Illinois River and it flows south, then southwest (I'm from Ottawa, IL).

There are two Fox Rivers in WI - the one you are talking about (in southern WI, flowing into IL) and another one up north that flows into Green Bay.


Interesting, so Wisconsonians aren't creative enough to name a second river something else (other than Fox), whichever one is second? Sounds like "cheese on the brain". I bet you can't tell I'm from Illinois? ;)

Sovereign Court

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James Jacobs wrote:
gamer-printer wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Rivers only ever flow left to right.
Well it depends on which bank your standing on - it is the other way on the opposite bank... ;)
Nah. If the river seems to be flowing right to left, you just know that you're on the incorrect bank for proper observation of the river. Wade on over to the other side!

If you tried wading across the Mississippi, your body would be found at least 20 miles downstream.


Tim Statler wrote:
If you tried wading across the Mississippi, your body would be found at least 20 miles downstream.

Not at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, I simply jumped over the Mississippi as a 14 year old kid. It depends on where on the Mississippi you're talking about, its a big river, and different circumstances at different places along that river.

Sovereign Court

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gamer-printer wrote:
Tim Statler wrote:
If you tried wading across the Mississippi, your body would be found at least 20 miles downstream.
Not at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, I simply jumped over the Mississippi as a 14 year old kid. It depends on where on the Mississippi you're talking about, its a big river, and different circumstances at different places along that river.

Here at Cape Girardeau where I live it is about 1/4 mile across, and the channel averages around 15-20 foot deep.

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