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Topographic Map Symbols

Topics: Topographic maps, topographic map reading, map legends

Length: One class period

Type of Resource Being Described: Fact Sheet


Interpreting the colored lines, areas, and other symbols is the first step in using topographic maps. Features are shown as points, lines, or areas, depending on their size and extent. For example, individual houses may be shown as small black squares. For larger buildings, the actual shapes are mapped. In densely built-up areas, most individual buildings are omitted and an area tint is shown. On some maps, post offices, churches, city halls, and other landmark buildings are shown within the tinted area.


Map legend delineating all possible features depicted on a topographic map., Full descriptions of each map feature type, including an image of each.


Use this Fact Sheet to teach students about topographic map symbols.

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