USGS topo maps have been the gold standard in terrain-based map information for decades, so it?s neat to see them offered for free. The fact our government is using Google Maps to create a zoomable, pannable, online topo map is also cool. It?s a pleasant change from the usual, half-baked solutions that .gov sites normally offer.
It also invites the inevitable comparison to Google?s own ?terrain? view which, at first glance, is hella better looking. The comparison is particularly interesting because I?m pretty sure Google?s view was generated from the USGS topo data. (there are some suspicious oddities about Google?s view right about where the USGS topo maps intersect). The basic elevation contours are the same and the views have the same roads and fireroads. But only the USGS maps show trails, buildings, mines, or other landmarks that make these types of maps so fun and useful.
Unfortunately the topo map I?m looking at (the Mt. Bachelor quad) hasn?t been updated in 27 years, so trusting it to be accurate in any of these details would be foolish. Google could have probably included this information on it?s terrain view but likely decided to avoid the legal liability issues involved in having incorrect, out-of-date landmarks on it?s mapping service. The USGS topo maps have clear statements about how and when the map was last updated on each quadrangle, something Google lacks.
This dated-ness has long been a complaint of topo maps or, if not a complaint, at least an accepted weakness. It leads one to speculate about whether there is a better way to keep topo data current, a way for our government to, say, crowdsource out the work of doing field surveys. Imagine an iPhone app that allowed you to tag your current location with an icon and a comment and submit that to a [government?] database of topo data. This would allow local organizations like COTA and CONC to maintain the locations of new ski shelters and mountain bike trails in near real-time, rather than waiting 20 years for the next USGS update.
In fact, if the USGS focused on managing raw map data and providing an open API to that data, and left the actual rendering of maps to companies like Google, it might make for an interesting paradigm shift in the world of cartography.
[Hmm... one could argue this has already started to happen as small groups turn to Google's Maps API to create custom maps for things like specific types of geodata: trails, geocaches, radio tower locations, etc.]
You can enter an address close to where you want to see, then click up, down, left or right to center on just the place you are wanting (or just click on it) then scroll forward to zoom in. Then go to the upper right to the map drop down & click satellite or hybrid for satellite with the roads.
This looks very promising. Layers offer many options including fewer distractions from over crowded map entries.
What's new and what's next?
The staff of the National Atlas at the U.S. Geological Survey is hard at work on new products and services. Whether you have a casual interest in the Nation's geography or are a professional geospatial data user, we have news for you.
Our number of Printable Maps grew substantially when we introduced satellite views of individual States. These maps combine Landsat imagery with terrain data. For educators and map lovers, we have added ten maps to our Set of Topographic Maps Illustrating Physiographic Features. The viewer for this set was improved as well. We are also working on a related project to offer topographic maps and aerial photographs that illustrate a variety of wetland environments. We improved the design of our Dynamic Map that shows the spread of the invasive zebra mussel and updated it, too.
By the end of this summer, we plan to release new maps and articles on America's energy resources. There will be a new way to preview detailed renditions of recent Wall Maps. New maps will be offered through the Map Maker as we continue to prepare map layers from decennial census data and from the work of our many Federal partners.
Of course all of these Raw Data will continue to be documented and offered for download at no cost for our professional customers. We are participating in a test of cloud computing technology to continue delivering these data to you.
Also for professional consumers of geographic data we have a couple of exciting announcements. First, after years
in development, the National Atlas will soon offer a new set of fundamental digital cartographic data at a scale of 1:1,000,000. These map layers will replace the data we've offered at two million-scale since the revival of the National Atlas in 1997.
These maps were compiled and generalized from authoritative sources and were then tightly integrated.
Boundaries, transportation, drainage, and population centers are included. To the greatest practical extent, these frameworks have been edge aligned with data at the same scale from national mapping programs in Canada and Mexico to form a digital cartographic framework for all of North America. The data will be offered with attributes from both the National Atlas and the international Global Map project. Our drainage network is derived from the National Hydrography Dataset at 1:100,000-scale and retains full network connectivity and flow direction.
For those who have invested in desktop mapping or geographic information systems or who just like to create map mashups using open protocols, we have more news. The National Atlas will update and fully replace its current sets of image Web Map Services. These allow anyone to view National Atlas maps in their own programs simply by adhering to open standards for accessibility.
Free Printable Topo Maps
US Geological Survey Maps
Free Aerial Maps
GPS Garmin Topo Maps
USGS Topo Maps
Aerial View of My House
Colorado Topo Maps
Free Topo Map of California
Zoom in Using Satellite
Topo Map Symbols
Download Free Maps
Free Fishing Maps
Free Downloadable GPS Maps
Pennsylvania State Game Land Map
Map of All the Arkansas Rivers
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