Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Downloading Free Topographic Maps

Backwoods Products-Downloading Free Topographic Maps

I confess I am one of those people that is always cruising the internet looking for maps.  Once you learn to interpret maps it is easier to find information by quickly scanning a map than even looking at aerial photos.  Here is the link to the previous blog entry on learning how to use a map and compass.   As with everything in life, the trick to becoming expert in using a map and compass is using a map and compass as often as possible.  That generally means buying topographic maps or a computer mapping program.

This is the program I use.  Simple interface, easy printing and making notations on maps.  However, it is very expensive to buy a set for all the states! 

Other manufacturers also take the USGS topographic maps and convert them to computer files that you can print and manipulate.   So there are plenty of choices if you prefer using the DeLorme or some other interface.

However, for me the National Geographic interface is the simplest and is the reason I have continued to use them.  All the maps are prepared by the United States Geological Survey so they are identical for ALL the software packages.

So pick the interface you prefer when purchasing.

But you can get the topographic maps for FREE from the USGS at the store.  Here is the link to the USGS store:  USGS Store.  In the upper left hand corner, under the search header is the Map Locator button.  Click on it and a map of the United States should come up in the center of the screen.  It is actually the familar Google map screen.  There should be instructions on how to download instructions to the right of the map.

If you do NOT get this screen it means your browser is blocking the cookies required for downloading the map.  So go into the tools portion of your browser and under the privacy tab there should be options for allowing cookies.  On some browsers you can specify which web sites can download cookies to your machine.  Or you can simply make the change while you downloading maps and then change it back after you are done. 

Click on the state and browse to the topographic map you want to download.  Click on the "information balloon" to get the dialog box to download the map.  Note that the maps are 6 to 10 megs or more in size so you might want to be on a high speed connection prior to downloading. 

The ENTIRE topo map is dowloaded as a PDF file and can be read in Adobe Reader.  I use Adobe Acrobat to clip and resize the maps.  There are some freeware software packages that can also do this, but I have no recommendations since I use Acrobat.  Any suggestions??

Also on this page is the download for GeoPdf program.  Click on the web link to see if you want it.  It does look interesting.

So there it is for a free topographic map anywhere in the United States.  Well, not really free since your tax dollars paid for its development.  However, this is one of those government programs that has allowed private industry to do their work quicker and more efficiently than gathering their own data.

Download the maps.  Cut out the portion your interested in and start using it.  Soon you will be expert with that map and compass.

Check out the other features of the USGS store.  There is lots of good stuff in there. 


Linda said...

Thanks for the link. Dave is a map fiend so I'm sure we'll be checking this out.

Linda Sand

Dugg said...

Awesome, I always wondered how to download complete topos directly from the USGS.

If I'm just interested in viewing a portion of a topo, I use That site even works on my BlackBerry.

Robert said...

Thanks. I had no idea the top maps in PDF format were available from USGS.

Anonymous said...

Hey - I am really happy to find this. Good job!