Orbital View: A River Running Red

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

American astronaut Jeff Williams spots one over his home country:

There is a good reason to call it Red River – marking the border between Texas (left) and Oklahoma (right).

A photo posted by Jeff Williams (@astro_jeffw) on

In case you haven’t met this mighty river:

The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major tributary of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers and the second-largest river basin in the southern Great Plains (total length of the river is 1,360 miles). The river was named for the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name. “The Mexicans and Indians on the borders of Mexico are in the habit of calling any river, the waters of which have a red appearance, 'Rio Colorado', or Red river”, observed R.B. Marcy in 1853. The Red River formed part of the US-Mexico border from the Adams-Onís Treaty (in force 1821) until the Texas Annexation and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

(See all Orbital Views here)