by Brenda Mathenia
Planning a trip to Hawaii and curious about the hiking potential near Waikiki? Exploring a new
community? Can't find a paper copy of your favorite topographic map? No need to fret, the United
States Geological Survey, in partnership with businesses throughout the U.S., are making USGS
Quadrangle Maps available via the Internet.
A variety of Internet sites will allow you to access quadrangle maps for your personal use.
What do I mean by access? Well, you can view and in most cases print maps directly from your
computer. Some sites will allow you to download the digital files to use in your own GIS or
other applications. Sites vary in the quality of the maps available, and the greater the
technology available to you the greater potential these sites provide.
Montana's own Natural Resources Information System provides a TopoFinder that assists users in locating appropriate topographic quadrangle maps.
You can search by place name, feature name, quadrangle name or latitude/longitude. Printing options
are available though the quality is still rough. This is a great site for finding the most
appropriate Montana quadrangle map for your needs.
Some of the most user-friendly sites are commercial in nature and provide maps for printing and
other services. One such site is TopoZone, part of the USGS Digital
Cartographic Business Partner program. Here you can search for a map by its official name,
by a geographic feature or populated place. You can choose the best scale with which to view
your map Ñ1:24,000, 1:100,000 and in some cases 1:250,000. Once in a map view, you can change
scales or scroll the compass directions to view adjacent areas. Printing of maps for personal
use is allowed though the viewing window is small -- about 9.5" x 7" on my screen with a similarly
sized print product.
MapTech MapServer provides access to topographic maps and nautical charts.
You can also find aerial photos, called NavPhotos, that cover coastal regions only. Searching
is available by place name and state with options for zooming and panning to adjacent areas.
Maps print well, and there is an option for e-mailing maps to yourself or your friends. The
site provides many links to other mapping products, travel guides and software.
Another site to consider is TerraServer. Not only can you access
topographic maps but this site also specializes in aerial photos and satellite images of the
U.S. and select areas of the world. Users can select a coverage area from a map then choose
whether to view a topographic map, a relief map or a satellite image. With both maps and
images available, this site provides a unique opportunity to compare information available
on each type of product.
All of these sites can provide you with maps for your personal/recreational use. Current
printing options are limited, but as technology continues to improve and larger format printing
becomes available, these sites will play an ever-increasing role in the lives of adventurers
around the world.
Brenda Mathenia is a reference librarian at the MSU Libraries.