“Maps codify the miracle of existence.”
August 9, 2016 5:52 AM   Subscribe

Free, Printable USGS Quads National Geographic (the one now owned by Fox?!) has put together a website where you can download USGS (previously) maps that have been processed to print on standard letter paper.
posted by DigDoug (33 comments total) 119 users marked this as a favorite
 
I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS!!!
posted by mollymayhem at 6:22 AM on August 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is super awesome, and I love maps!

It should be noted that they are generated from fairly old data: for example my corner of Rhode Island says "Last Revision: 1998." And while I don't expect that much to have changed in my particular, long-settled neighborhood, twenty years allows for a lot of road construction/re-routing, real estate development (leading to the enclosure of once-public lands/trails/access), and name changes. Caveat emptor!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:23 AM on August 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


*opens site*
* zooms in on the Yosemite National Park Area *
* Downloads EVERYTHING THEY GOT *
* prints and adds to suitcase for a trip next month *
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on August 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


(If anyone has good, firsthand experience with color, laser-printing on waterproof media, I would be very grateful to know what brand of paper you used -- Rite in the Rain? TerraSlate? Teslin? -- and how it worked out in the long term.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:27 AM on August 9, 2016


Whaaaaaaa? I have been mystified for literally years as to why this didn't already exist. This is huge!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:37 AM on August 9, 2016


Haven't looked at these in decades. They should look great on tablets.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:56 AM on August 9, 2016


If you want an online map, MapZen recently produced a really excellent outdoor map style. No contours, but really beautiful relief shading and an emphasis on hiking trails, parks, etc. It's based on open data including OpenStreetmap, SRTM, and a lot of other sources.
posted by Nelson at 6:59 AM on August 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


'In geology or geography, the word "quadrangle" usually refers to a United States Geological Survey (USGS) 7.5-minute quadrangle map, which are usually named after a local physiographic feature. The shorthand "quad" is also used, especially with the name of the map; for example, "the Ranger Creek, Texas quad map".'

'In the United States, a 7.5 minute quadrangle map covers an area of 49 to 70 square miles (130 to 180 km2)' (according to Wikipedia) (just looked this up)
posted by amtho at 7:00 AM on August 9, 2016


Nelson: Those are beautiful. We live in a wonderful world.
posted by DigDoug at 7:05 AM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


They should look great on tablets.

Each download is a five-page PDF: an "index page" with a lower-res image, and then four higher-res pages each with one-fourth of the main image. And those four pages are very nice indeed!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:06 AM on August 9, 2016


Back in the day you'd have to go to the outdoor sporting goods store, find the big flat file drawers, look up the quad you were interested on the map hanging above, find the right drawer, rifle through the maps in there, and finally curse when you discover they are all out of the Castle Crags one and won't have more in stock until a week after you get back from your trip.

This is a lot easier.

(I've been using BackCountryNavigator on my Android phone, and the price includes access to all the USGS quadrangles for use in the app along with your phone's GPS, you can even predownload 'em if you're wary of dicey cell coverage, but all that can't beat a real paper map.)
posted by notyou at 7:19 AM on August 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


These are pretty, but they are not showing me where that tiny stream near my place is coming from or going to.

Hail map geeks: any idea where I could find that info? The path of the tiny stream? I'd like to try to decrease the pollution/fertilizer going into it so we can avoid the algae overgrowth and maybe get our small pond smelling better....
posted by amtho at 7:22 AM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Water Resource Maps

Brought to you by the US taxpayer.

It's been a while since I played with those, but you should find what you need there.
posted by notyou at 7:28 AM on August 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I was wondering a few months ago about how the USGS makes (and made) its maps over the years, and it's pretty fascinating how the techniques, both in data acquisition and presentation, have evolved over the years.
posted by notyou at 7:32 AM on August 9, 2016


amtho, I have a thing that may help you find that tiny stream. Try my rivers map demo. The UI is very limited; your best bet is to paste your latitude/longitude into the URL. The blue lines are coming from the National Hydrography Dataset, the US standard for river flowlines. (That in turn is derived by looking at the elevation of the land and calculating which way water would flow).

Apologies the UI is not more helpful; this is an old demo of the data that feeds things like that MapZen map I posted above. If you can't figure out how to find your place, memail me an address or something and I'll give you back a link.

Speaking of rivers, there's a neat USGS site with information on your local watershed. The browser interface is clunky but usable and gets you to things like the Upper Yuba watershed. From there lots of links to water flow, etc.
posted by Nelson at 7:34 AM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thank you! Those are very helpful!

The USGS tool seems to show a fairly detailed view - helpful! The stream is visible there. However, it has missing segments, and there are a lot of stream connections in the area, so: is it possible to show flow direction in nearby streams?

Entering "Finley Forest Dr. and Barbee Chapel Rd., Chapel Hill, NC" gets me to the spot where I know about the stream. It flows from east to west, so I'm trying to trace toward the right side of the view.

Also: Dotted blue lines? What does that mean? I don't think the stream is underground there (in fact, one place I _know_ it's underground shows it as a straight blue line).


(I looked at your rivers map demo, which was beautiful. I entered my lat & longitude, but didn't see any landmarks or any way to get a sense of "where" stuff was, so it didn't seem to help with my specific problem. But it was cool!)
posted by amtho at 8:54 AM on August 9, 2016


Usually dotted lines refer to an intermittent stream, one where water doesn't flow year round.

For more information: USGS Map Symbols (pdf)
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Last Revision: 1998." And while I don't expect that much to have changed in my particular, long-settled neighborhood, twenty years allows for a lot of road construction/re-routing, real estate development (leading to the enclosure of once-public lands/trails/access), and name changes.

I wouldn't get to wrapped up in the revision date. They're *topographic* maps and the topology and geographic place names have a glacial (literally sometimes) rate of change. While it's convenient to some that they show trails and structures and roads, that was not the intent of the quadrangle series.

The latest series; US Topo, is focused on the non-specialized map user and comes with all the compromises that entails. It is probably closer to what you might have been expecting.
US Topo maps are a repackaging of GIS data in traditional map form for the benefit of non-specialist map users. Some of the layers in this map series come from non-USGS sources, primarily agencies that have data authority granted by OMB Circular A-16 (see links below), or land management agencies, or in some cases even non-government organizations. US Topo maps reflect both the strengths and weaknesses of current GIS datasets.
usgs faqs
posted by j_curiouser at 9:57 AM on August 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


is it possible to show flow direction in nearby streams?

flow direction is intrinsic to a topographic map - you have to read the topology.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Alas, the place we're going to later this week falls on the intersection of four different quads. If only I could re-center... I'll probably end up just caching a GPS map before we go.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2016


I wouldn't get to wrapped up in the revision date. They're *topographic* maps and the topology and geographic place names have a glacial (literally sometimes) rate of change.

I was recently in Yosemite for a day hike. My guide book dryly noted that one of the USGS maps of the area was "out of date and incorrect". I found the implications, ah... unsettling.
posted by aws17576 at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Given I was just in a local REI looking for topo maps they no longer seem to carry for a hike coming up, this post is extremely timely and useful for me.
posted by diode at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


diode, I know that the Appalachian Mountain Club sells really nice maps on waterproof paper (feels like Tyvek); I bought one of the maps in their White Mountain [NH] Guide Waterproof Map Set last summer and it's very nice.

I bought mine from the Map Center in Providence, RI, but AMC sells them direct, too, at the link above. If you ned them for another part of the country that AMC doesn't cover, you can contact the guy at the Map Center and ask what he's got or could recommend. *shrug* He's certainly nice enough: nothing to lose!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:58 AM on August 9, 2016


these are beautiful but I'm very conflicted by maps that do not help me find pokemon.
posted by numaner at 12:36 PM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Map Nerds: Also check out caltopo, where you can get quads and custom print topos, as well as add other handy features (like slope shading for assessing avalanche danger, shooting bearings, etc.). I use it all the time for backcountry travel.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:55 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


(If anyone has good, firsthand experience with color, laser-printing on waterproof media, I would be very grateful to know what brand of paper you used -- Rite in the Rain? TerraSlate? Teslin? -- and how it worked out in the long term.)


Use a decent cardstock and laminate afterwards. You'll have rigidity and it'll be waterproof.
posted by synthetik at 2:10 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Alas, the place we're going to later this week falls on the intersection of four different quads. If only I could re-center... I'll probably end up just caching a GPS map before we go.

Murphy's law of mapping. The most interesting features always fall on a grid boundary and you will have to do a splice job before you head out into the field.
posted by bukvich at 4:00 PM on August 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


@RedOrGreen: the place we're going to later this week falls on the intersection of four different quads.

You might use the USGS tool suggested by amtho to zoom in on your area and grab a screenshot or two.
posted by Twang at 4:17 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


(If anyone has good, firsthand experience with color, laser-printing on waterproof media, I would be very grateful to know what brand of paper you used -- Rite in the Rain? TerraSlate? Teslin? -- and how it worked out in the long term.)

We use the Rite in the Rain stuff mostly but sometimes someone orders another brand and they all seem to work. This is for maps, plans, and field crew sheets, so it has to both be waterproof and hold up to rough treatment. I haven't tried all the brands of paper but so far nothing has been a big failure.

I like how easy the usgs maps are to read and wish all maps were as good.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:28 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


re: revision dates. The map of the area where I live has a revision date of 1993, but shows roads and structures that have gone in within the past 10 years (but not the past 5), so who knows.
posted by sporkwort at 7:27 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does not seem to be very useful for Alaska, alas.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:10 AM on August 10, 2016


Or Hawaii.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:51 AM on August 11, 2016


Nobody is going to see this, but there is actually a lot happening in respect to amtho's questions. I made a gist with a quick relevant write-up for the area of interest here:

https://gist.github.com/jkreft-usgs/bff46dca89217fd1aeaebc2a2b9d94ae

If anyone has questions on that, I'm happy to answer them (it's my job!)
posted by rockindata at 8:15 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


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