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Rivers develop on planetary bodies from the interplay of climate and topography. In planetary contexts, rivers and their effects are used to constrain short- and long-term climate models. However, rivers are also controlled by the short- and long-wavelength topography of the planetary surface. Rivers thus provide a means to constrain the generation of topography. On page 727 of this issue, Black et al. (1) compare topography at a range of scales with mapped river drainages to provide new insights into the topography-generating mechanisms on Earth, Mars, and Titan.