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Topographic Maps

This research guide serves as a guide to print topographic maps available in the HSU Library Atlas and Map Collection and digital maps that can be viewed on the Internet or downloaded for personal viewing or use in GIS programs.

Table of Contents:

Other Places to Look:

Topographic Map

Guides to Topographic Mapping

Understanding Topographic Maps

Topographic Maps provides an overview of U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps including their characteristics, production, and history. Maps for America (US Geological Survey) 1981 (Docs I 19.2:M32/12 1981) includes detailed information on the characteristics, natural features, cultural features, boundaries, names, marginalia, projection, reference systems, and geodetic control found on topographic maps. In 1991 the USGS completed its analog map coverage of the 48 contiguous states of the United States at a 1:24,000 scale. This coverage includes more than 55,000 7.5-minute quadrangles. For additional background information on print and digital production see 125 Years of Topographic Mapping.

Indexes to Topographic Maps

The following options are available for finding the names and availability of topographic maps:

Starting Information Site
Placename (city, county, feature)
Zip Code
Clickable US Map
Map Name
State List (alphabetical)
Lat/Long Coordinate
UTM Coordinate
State Plane Coordinate
MapMart or USGS Store
OmniMap or MapMart
Stanford Univ Library or MapMart or USGS Store
MapMart or USGS Store or OmniMap
State Topographic Map Lists

Paper Maps in the HSU Library

Digital Maps On the Internet

Listed below are sites that allow you to interactively view topographic maps on the Internet, download digital topographic maps for personal viewing or download digital topographic maps for use in GIS programs. For maps viewed online you may be able to print, download, link or email them. You can also use free screen capture software, e.g., Scrennpresso or Jing to capture the screen image of a viewed map.

  • United States--Current
    • USGS Digital Topographic Maps

      Map formats:

      • US Topo maps are the new generation of USGS digital topographic maps. Maps are designed to look, feel and perform like traditional print topographic quadrangles. Each map is constructed in GeoPDF format from key layers of geographic data – orthoimagery, roads, geographic names, contours and hydrographic features. A free TerraGO toolbar plug-in for the Adobe Reader is available that allows you to view coordinates, measure distance and area, zoom to a coordinate and connect to a GPS device. For further information see US Topo Users Guide.
      • Digital Raster Graphics (DRGs) are scanned images of traditional USGS topographic maps. Downloaded DRGs in TIFF format can be used in GIS programs or can be viewed as a standalone file using free viewing software, e.g., DLGV32Pro. For GIS applications both the TIFF and the companion TFW format must be downloaded.

      Map availability:

      • Earth Explorer Search and download DRGs in TIFF format. Search by address, placename, or use a Google Maps interface. These are original DRGs that include all map collar information.
      • National Map Viewer and Download Platform Search and download collarless DRGs in TIFF format or 1:24,000, 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 topographic maps of the United States, including US Topo maps. Search by placename or use a clickable map.
      • USGS Store Search, download or order 1:24,000, 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 topographic maps of the United States and Antarctica in GeoPDF format. Includes current US Topo maps and historical topographic maps.
    • ACME Mapper (AMCE Laboratories) Use a Google Maps interface to navigate to a location anywhere in the world, or enter an location name (US street address or zip code, city name anywhere in the world or latitude/longitude. Display options include a street map, topographic maps (US only), terrain, aerial photography (US only), satellite imagery, and NEXRAD color imagery. Options allow one to change coordinates (lat/long, UTM, geotags) and track coordinates.
    • FSTopo 7.5' Quad Maps (US Forest Service) GeoPDf and GeoTiff 1:24,000 topographic maps covering national forests and national grasslands.
    • Google Earth applications. Requires installation of Google Earth. Some of these applications are linked to web mapping services that only load a small area at a time. Each time you stop moving the view you will need to wait a few seconds for the new area to load.
      • Insta-Topos with WMS (GELessons) Follow these direction to set up your own USGS topographic map layer in Google Earth.
      • Map Finder for Google Earth (Digital Data Services) Gridded index to all USGS 1:24:000 topographic maps. For each quadrangle you can download a free TIFF image by clicking on the bubble icon.
      • USGS Quadrangles (QUADS) (Metzger & Willard, Inc.) Gridded index to all 73,000 USGS topographic quadrangles. For each quadrangle you can download a free GeoPDF map linked from the USGS Store. Other available layers include grayscale and color shaded relief maps, topographic-bathymetric maps, black-and-white orthophotos, and urban areas color orthoimagery. See USGS Quadrangles in Google Earth for additional information.
      • USGS Topographic Map Overlay (3D Solar) Launches a seamless layer of USGS topographic maps.
      • USGS Topographic Maps for Google Earth (Google Earth Library) Gridded index to USGS 1:24,000 scale topographic maps. Click on the map name in the blue grid to display the topographic map.
    • Map and GIS Data By US State (Libre Map Project) Download free DRG's of 1:24,000 scale quadrangles in both TIFF and TFW formats. Display each state by quadrangle name or search by placename.
    • Maptech MapServer: Topographic Maps (Maptech) View a seamless collection of USGS 1:24,000, 1:100,000, and 1:250,000 topographic maps for the contiguous United States. Search for maps by placename, zip code, or geographic coordinate. You can pan to adjacent maps and display each map at 100% or 50% resolution. Print, save, or email what is displayed.
    • MSR Maps (Microsoft) (formerly Terraserver-USA) View a seamless collection of USGS topographic maps for the United States. Screen viewing area has three settings--small, medium, and large. Map resolution can be adjusted from 2 meters to 128 meters. Search by address, placename, geographic coordinate, or by clicking on an image map. Maps can be downloaded in JPEG format, printed, emailed or linked. Also links to orthophotoquad images and natural color relief maps which cover the same geographic area.
    • MyTopo: Online Topo Map Viewing (MyTopo) View a seamless collection of topographic maps of the United States and Canada. Use a Google Maps interface or search by city, town, zip code, address, lat/long or geographic feature name. Link or print what is displayed.
    • USA Topo Maps (ESRI) Interactive mapper provides detailed USGS topographic maps for the United States at 1:250k, 1:100k, and 1:24k scale levels. Map can be viewed with the default ArcGIS map viewer or ArcGIS Explorer.
    • United States Topographic Maps 1:250,000 (University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Library) Contains scanned images in this series date from the 1940s to the present.
  • United States--Historical
  • The USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection includes 180,000 historical topographic quadrangles produced by the USGS since the inception of the topographic mapping program in 1884.

    Other sites containing historical topograhic maps include:

    • Topographic Map Sites (University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Library) Master directory of sites, arranged by state, that contain historical topographic maps.
    • Coastal Topographic Sheets (T-sheets) (US Coast Survey) Highly detailed topographic maps of the shorelines and waterways of the United States. Maps date from 1834 to 1911. The "T-Sheets" contain historical information on such features as locations of buildings and detailed descriptions of shorelines.
    • General Land Office (GLO) Survey Plats and Field Notes (US Bureau of Land Management) Survey plats and field notes are the official documents resulting from the survey of federal public domain lands by the US General Land Office. From an historical perspective survey plats and field notes give a picture of the land during its original settlement and are now used extensively by title companies, surveyors, historians, genealogists, biogeographers and other researchers. Survey plats in many instances are the first maps of an area and show the locations of rivers, early settlements, roads, forts, and trails as well as topographic features.

      Originating with the Land Ordinance of 1785 the initial purpose of the survey was to divide the vast public domain into lots that could be sold to raise funds for the federal government and to encourage settlement of the public domain. Land title was transferred from the federal government to individuals through land patents. Survey work was done using the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) which divided the public domain into six-mile square townships and one-mile square sections. The PLSS was utilized in 30 states and resulted in 133,000 survey plats and 2.75 million pages of field notes that date from the 1820s.

      The field notes created by surveyors describe in detail each mile of line surveyed; monuments placed; terrain over which they passed; and nature of the soil, vegetation and timber, salt licks, and other items of economic interest. Survey plats are the graphic representation of the information contained in the field notes. They show the PLSS boundaries (e.g. section boundary lines) and some of the physical and cultural features found in the notes.

    • Historic Topo Maps (Google Earth Library) Includes over 2,000 historic USGS topographic maps available in various scales dating back to the late 1800s in some areas. Currently, most of the coverage is in the western United States and California. Requires installation of Google Earth.
    • Historic USGS Maps (Broer Map Library) Contains a selection of historical topographic maps for most states.
    • Historic USGS Maps of New England & NY (University of New Hampshire Library) Includes historical topographic maps for Conneticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
    • Online Topographic Map Collections (University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Library) In progress collection of pre-1945 USGS topographic maps, arranged by state. See Scanning Status Map for progress.
    • Southwest U.S. Geological Survey Maps (Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies) Includes images of 61 early USGS topographic maps of the four corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
  • California--Current - See California Maps--Topographic--Current
  • California--Historical - See California Maps--Topographic--Historical
  • Other Countries and Regions
    • Toporama (Canadian Center for Topographic Information) Contains raster images that correspond in part to 1:250,000 and 1:50,000 Canadian National Topographic Data Base maps; and ortho images converted from Landsat 7 imagery. Search using a clickable map or enter a geographic coordinate. Maps are also searchable using GEOSCAN. On the advanced search page select the "GS Topographic Maps" option in the Series search box.
    • Digital Topographic Map Sets (UC Berkeley Earth Sciences and Map Library) Contains index graphics and scanned images of Soviet Union topographic map sets for individual countries at scales of 1:50,000 to 1:200,000.
    • International Map of the World 1:1,000,000 (University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Library)
    • Online Topographic Map Collections (University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Library) Collection of scanned maps arranged by continent. Scale varies by country.
    • U.S. Army Map Service Topographic Maps (US Army Map Service) Includes approximately 450 topographic map series produced by the AMS and its successor agencies-- Defense Mapping Agency, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. These series were distributed to participating map libraries beginning in 1945. These maps are now historical in nature in that they reflect the political and cultural features of the time period in addition to the topography. Scales vary but many are 1:250,000. Some series still offer the most detailed topographic map coverage for the area. The HSU Library became a depository for current print maps in 1976. Series received include the Joint Operations Graphic, Tactical Pilotage Chart and Operational Navigation Chart listed above.


      Digital Collections

    • World Topographic Map (ESRI) Interactive mapper includes boundaries, cities, water features, physiographic features, parks, landmarks, transportation, and buildings. Scale varies by country. Map can be viewed with the default ArcGIS map viewer or ArcGIS Explorer.