New Digital Topographic Maps from the USGS

Feb 16, 2010 | News & Views, What's New

The U.S. Geological Survey has unveiled for the coming year the new “US Topo,” a significant new step in regenerating, improving, and updating the familiar USGS topographic maps.

US Topo is a digital 1:24,000-scale topographic map series. The new maps are built from the digital layers of The National Map, which is a synthesis of information from local, state, and federal partners. The US Topo maps combine the familiar data layers seen in the original map- contours, hydrography, transportation, geographic names, and more-over an image background. The maps’ collar and frame have the same look and feel as the legacy USGS topographic map. Although the maps are built from digital components, users can print the maps showing different layers and at different scales. US Topo maps are designed to look, feel, and perform like the traditional paper topographic maps for which the USGS is so well known. However, in contrast to paper-based maps, US Topo maps provide technical advantages that support faster, wider public distribution and enable basic, on-screen geographic analysis for all users.

The US Topo product

Is built from nationally consistent data quality assured to high standards;

Looks and feels like legacy paper USGS topographic maps but has technical advantages;

Can be used on the computer or printed to scale;

Is available for free download;

Enables users to select from various reference systems, e.g., latitude/longitude or Universal Transverse Mercator;

Has direct “mash-up” capabilities with Google Maps; and

Allows for continuous evolution and incorporation of additional data layers. [continued on next page] News & Views February 2010 2 USGS Topo Maps (cont.)

US Topo builds on the earlier introduction of the “Digital Map–Beta.” More than 14,100 of the Beta quadrangle maps have been produced since last June, with coverage in 18 states. A precursor to the US Topo, the Beta maps were similar in appearance to USGS topographic maps but did not include the hydrography and contour lines. US Topo adds these layers and other improvements and will now be the foundation upon which future enhancements and additional data are added.

Production Schedule and Use

US Topo maps will be produced in 2010 and 2011 to complete coverage (along with the Beta maps) of the continental United States. For 2010, US Topo production begins in Kansas and progresses to New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Texas toward a total of 16 states. In 2012, the existing Beta maps will be supplanted by new US Topo maps. After that, production will continue on a national threeyear cycle.

US Topo maps are available on the internet at no cost in a GeoPDF format. Free tools allow users to determine coordinates, turn layers on and off, zoom in and out, and print the map image. The site includes a “Quickstart” user’s guide, links to locate and download the available maps, an information sheet, and some interesting information concerning the history of topographic mapping in the USGS.

Evaluation Wanted

Feedback on the US Topo is very important and will be used to improve the maps, the website, and outreach materials. The USGS is encouraging evaluation for various uses. Comments may be submitted through the “Contact Us” tab of the US Topo website, below. The US Topo maps and much more information can be found on The National Map website at

At left is an image of the US Topo map for the Coffeyville East Kansas quadrangle.