Frequently Asked Questions

Data, Tools, and Technology

The USGS has developed many tools and techniques for analyzing data and specialized websites for sharing information and products with the public.

Filter Total Items: 16
Ray Copper Mine
After 85 years of service, the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) closed in 1996. Certain functions, such as the collection, analysis, and dissemination of minerals information, have been returned to the U.S. Geological Survey. For information on former USBM programs or publications, please see the following sources: The National Technical Reports...
Samples to OGRL thumbnail
A soil survey is the systematic description, classification, and mapping of soils in an area. They are published by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service. NRCS soil surveys are available from several sources: Some are on the NRCS website. Published soil surveys can be found at some...
Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park
GeoMAC only displays perimeter data as they are submitted. Since data are not received for all fires, you might not be able to view perimeters for every fire.
Wildlife in the distance behind burned forests in California
In order to give fire managers near real-time information, wildfire perimeter data in GeoMAC  is updated daily based upon input from incident intelligence sources, GPS data, and infrared (IR) imagery from fixed wing and satellite platforms. More information about wildfires is available from the National Interagency Fire Center.
A wildfire in a forest
GEOMAC (Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination) is an online wildfire mapping application originally designed for fire managers to access maps of current fire locations and perimeters in the United States. With the growing concern of western wildland fires, this application is now available to the public. In order to give fire managers near real-...
small excerpt of Yosemite Valley topographic map in shades of green and brown
The USGS publishes approximately 57,000 different topographic maps covering the United States. Topographic maps show contour lines (elevation and landforms), hydrography (rivers, lakes, marshes), transportation (roads, trails, railroads, airports), vegetation, boundaries, survey markers, urban areas, buildings, and a variety of other features....
Image: Learning How to Navigate With GPS
We generally emphasize the following four points: Select a coordinate system (also called a "position format") you feel comfortable using. We suggest using Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) or latitude/longitude. Most users find UTM coordinates easier to locate on USGS 7.5-minute quadrangle maps. The coordinate system displayed by your GPS...
1951 USGS legacy topographic map of the Monson West, ME
A plastic map is made with a water-resistant and tear-resistant type material, but it retains the flexibility and other characteristics of paper maps. Some National Park maps and National Forest visitor guides are printed on water-resistant media, and are available for order through the USGS Store. Printed USGS topographic maps are only available...
Geologic Map
Detailed geologic mapping has not been completed for the entire United States, but they're available for most locations. Geologic maps at many scales, and from many sources, are listed in the National Geologic Map Database. Some geologic maps can be purchased in hard copy through the USGS Store. If you don't find geologic maps for your area in...
Loch Vale lake at Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.
Our National Parks are the showcases of our nation's geological heritage. The websites for most individual parks have detailed information about their geology and natural history.  Sources of information from the USGS include out website for 3D and Photographic Tours Featuring Park Geology and Natural History and our website for Geology of the...
Men sitting around a table beside a wagon in 1870 Wyoming
A number of images from the "Great Surveys of the American West" can be dowloaded through the online USGS Photographic Library. Before the USGS was established by Congress as a part of the Department of Interior, four surveys of the westernmost parts of the United States took place between 1867 and 1879. Surveys led by Ferdinand Hayden and John...
Image: USGS Topographic Field Party
The USGS Photographic Library, located in Denver, Colorado, is an archive of still photographs dating from the 1870’s and taken by USGS scientists as part of their field studies. The works of pioneer photographers W.H. Jackson, T.H. O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, J.K. Hillers, Thomas Moran, A.J. Russell, E.O. Beaman, and William Bell are...