The use of definite articles with names for inanimate objects in English should be understood on a case-by-case basis. There is, as far as I know, no principled reason behind the distribution of definite articles.
Here is what Hawthorne and Manley (2012) say on the subject:
in English there are various situations where names in subject position
require articles. Thus, when modifying names with adjectives we almost always add articles: ‘A/The bleary-eyed Bill Clinton emerged’, ‘Now the incredibly agile Jordan is weaving through his opponents’....
Even unmodified singular names are often prefixed by the definite article, such as names for rivers and newspapers.... Moreover, no deep distinction divides names that are prefixed by the article and those that are not.
Names for oceans typically have an article, while names for lakes typically do not; in California, numerical names for highways have them (‘take the 405’), while on the east coast they do not (‘take 287’). One might object that, for example, in ‘the Thames’ the article is somehow fused into the name and no longer functions as a determiner. But note that the article gets distanced from the name when adjectives are added: ‘the mighty Thames’, ‘the vast Pacific’, ‘the notorious Wall Street Journal’ and so on.
Hawthorne and Manley, The Reference Book (2012).
From this passage, we observe:
- Name for rivers typically have articles ("the Thames", "the Nile", "the Niagara River").
- Names for oceans typically have articles ("the Atlantic", "the Indian Ocean").
- Names for lakes typically don't ("Lake Erie", "Lake Michigan").
- In California, names for highways have articles ("take the 405").
- On the east coast, names for highways don't have them ("take 287").
- Names for newspapers typically have articles ("the Wall Street Journal", "the New York Times").
We might add:
- Like oceans, seas also have articles ("the Mediterranean Sea", "the Black Sea").
- Waterfalls typically don't have articles ("Niagara Falls", "Victoria Falls")
- Canyons sometimes have articles, but sometimes don't ("the Grand Canyon", "Colca Canyon")
You can make similar observations about names for bridges, buildings, squares, publications, etc.
Why names for some types of geological features and artifactual entities seem to require the definite article while others don't is an open question. There may be no principled reason.