Frequently Asked Questions

Mapping, Remote Sensing, and Geospatial Data

The USGS provides the mapping and digital geospatial foundation for the Nation.

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OrthoImage layer in a US Topo Map of Washington, D.C.
Superseded US Topo maps will remain available for download, but will not become part of the Historical Topographic Map Collection, which is scans of USGS topographic quadrangles originally published as paper documents between 1884-2006.  The first US Topo maps were published in 2009. They are updated and superseded every 3 years (maps for one...
Image: USGS Topographers at Work
Georeferencing means that the internal coordinate system of a map or aerial photo image can be related to a ground system of geographic coordinates. The relevant coordinate transforms are typically stored within the image file (GeoPDF and GeoTIFF are examples), though there are many possible mechanisms for implementing georeferencing. The most...
Alaska Surveying
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was created in 1879 and published it’s first topographic map in 1882. Systematic topographic mapping was authorized by Congress in 1884.  Although 1:24,000-scale topographic maps were produced by the USGS as early as 1904, a formal program to provide primary topographic map coverage at that scale for the entire...
Image: USGS Topographer at Work
Yes. GeoPDF files for both Historical topographic maps (produced 1884-2006) and US Topo maps (produced 2009-present) come with an XML metadata file attached to each GeoPDF file. To access the metadata file, download the GeoPDF file, open it in Acrobat Reader, click on the paperclip icon, then select a file from the list that appears (a US Topo Map...
historic topographic map of portland, or
The goals of the Historical Topographic Map Collection (HTMC) project are to find, catalog, and georeference all USGS topographic quadrangle maps published prior to 2007. The overall purpose is to preserve the map archive for scientists, historians, and the public. Library copies of maps (many of which have library stamps) were therefore scanned "...
Image: USGS Cartographer at Work
Yes, these are different maps that typically resulted from revisions and reprints. The differences are often minor. The date used to identify a map can be found in the lower right corner. If there are multiple editions with the same compilation date, look for additional dates in the lower right portion of the map collar that might differentiate...
Figure 2. Current and proposed MR diversions in Louisiana deltaic wetlands. (Source: LaCPRA)
NWI data is available in the Content sub-tab under Overlays in a panel called Other Featured Data in the table of contents of The National Map viewer. NWI data layers are provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to download Wetlands data, go to the FWS National Wetlands Inventory website.
NHD
Hydrography data are offered in Esri File Geodatabase 10.1 or Shapefile formats. NHD data is available as State extracts, 4-digit sub-regions, 8-digit sub-basins, or in a specified extent from The National Map Download Client. A national extent of medium and high resolution NHD in File Geodatabase format is also available at this site by browsing...
Screenshot from NHD Seminar 6 Presentation showing 1:2,000,000 scale
Hydrography data can be downloaded by using The National Map Download Client or from ftp sites that contains Pre-staged data. For directions go to the Interactive Tutorials folder in the NHD User Guide located at the USGS Hydrography Web site. Information on hydrography data available through The National Map download client can be found on the...
National Land Cover Database (NLCD)
Information on land cover data from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) can be found on the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) website. The MRLC website serves several vintages of the National Land Cover Database (NLCD). At this writing, NLCD 2016 is the most recent version.    
Updated 2015 version of the Madison West US Topo quadrangle
There are three ways to get full-scale plots of USGS topographic quadrangle maps, including both Historical Topographic maps (produced 1884-2006) and US Topo maps (produced 2009-present). Order a paper map from the USGS Store. Use the Store’s Map Locator to find the desired map. Download the GeoPDF map file and send it to a local printing...
Planned US Topo map production schedule for the next three- year revision cycle
US Topo maps are remade every three years. The US Topo production schedule follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) collection schedule. The linework features shown on the maps are generated from the latest data holdings in The National Map and other standard sources. The overall goal of the project...