United States Geological Survey Topographic Maps
You may be surprised at the beauty of authentic lithographed maps if you have only seen onscreen or inkjet images!Excellent graphic quality is a must for wall display or for anyone who might browse these endlessly fascinating maps. For any location in the country a genuine topographic map is a collectible piece of history.
In this example, contours precisely describe the dramatic clifftop setting of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 160 feet atop the Hudson River. One small excerpt presents dozens of interesting details such as academy buildings, docks, and facilities; navigation lights, water depths, and a railroad tunnel under the Parade ground.
Three series of USGS maps divide the United States into quadrangles: The primany series, the 1:100,000 series and the 1:250,000 series. Uniform scale and style of maps in each series make it easy to compare and contrast different places. Each quadrangle is bounded by two lines of latitude and two lines of longitude. The quadrangles in a series fit together almost like tiles, in rows and columns, providing standardized coverage of the whole country. Two or more neighboring quadrangles may be matched together to make a larger map or huge mural.
A quadrangle is usually named after a prominent town or feature it contains. The same name often applies to maps in more than one series so it is important to indicate the series and state when referring to topographic maps by name.
- Learn more:
- How do contours show the shape of the land?
- What other kinds of detail do topographic maps show?
- I have a GPS. Why do I need maps?
- Map series properties & sample views:
- Primary Map Series (most detailed)
- 1:100,000 series (30x60 minute)
- 1:250,000 series (1x2 degree)
- County Map Series
- State Map Series
- What USGS topographic maps don't do well