Are USGS topographic maps copyrighted?

All topographic maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are in the public domain and are not copyrighted except for the following three cases that apply only to US Topo maps (produced 2009-present):

  1. Most maps in the period 2010-2016 contain commercially licensed road data (see note below).
  2. Orthoimages in Alaska are commercially licensed.
  3. Orthoimages in Hawaii were commercially licensed until 2016. Hawaii US Topo maps produced in 2017 use public domain NAIP imagery. The source of imagery for Hawaii maps to be produced after 2017 is under discussion.

The commercial providers for those three sources retain copyright as noted in the map credit legend (in the lower left corner of the map collar) and in the metadata file that’s attached to GeoPDF and GeoTIFF format maps.

All other data used in USGS topographic maps are in the public domain. US Topo maps--even those that include commercial data--can be reproduced freely and used for any purpose, provided copyright notices for the three cases listed above are retained and indicated. Images derived from the maps can be used in reports and publications if these three sources are appropriately credited; normal fair-use principles apply. We do ask that you acknowledge the USGS as the source of the map.

Roads on US Topo maps: From 2010 through 2015, all US Topo maps in the 48 conterminous states, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico used commercially licensed road data, except in National Forests, where public domain data from the U.S. Forest Service was used in all cases. In November 2016, we stopped using commercial data and now use public domain data from the U.S. Census Bureau. A small number of the earliest Alaska US Topo maps used commercial road data, but Alaska US Topos produced beginning 2014 use public domain data from Alaska DOT, supplemented in some areas with public domain data from other government agencies. Check the credit legend in the lower-left corner of the map collar to determine if a particular map includes copyrighted data, or see the attached XML metadata file by opening the GeoPDF file in Acrobat Reader and clicking on the paperclip icon. As noted above, maps with copyrighted data can be freely used and distributed provided the copyright notice is retained.

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How do I find, download, or order topographic maps?

Download all dates and scales of USGS topographic maps (both current US Topo maps and Historical topographic maps ) free of charge from the following applications. With the exception of GNIS, each site has an option for toggling on map indices showing an outline of all the maps, though you might need to zoom in to see the outlines: Map Locator on...

Where can I find indexes of USGS topographic maps?

View map indices on these interactive maps (you must zoom in to see the index lines and map names) : Map Locator on the USGS Store - Click the icon on the left that looks like two pieces of paper and select “1:24,000”. TopoView - Click on any of the round map scale indicators on the right side of the map. The National Map Viewer - Click on the...

Are there metadata Files for USGS topographic maps?

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...

How do I get a full-scale plot of a 1:24,000-scale (7.5-minute) topographic map?

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...

How can I find the source and vintage of each US Topo data layer?

The credit legend in the lower left-hand corner of the collar on a US Topo map provides a short summary of data sources and data currency. More detailed source information is in an XML metadata file attached to each GeoPDF file. This file contains series-level, quad-level, and layer-level metadata, but US Topo does not preserve or track feature-...

How current are US Topo maps?

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...

How accurate are US Topo maps, and why don't they have an accuracy statement?

US Topo maps are as accurate as the data sources used to make them, but because these sources are many and varied, it is not possible to make a single simple statement that the map as a whole meets a particular level of accuracy. US Topo maps, therefore, do not have a traditional accuracy statement in the map collar. Accuracy information for...

Can I still get the older topographic maps?

Yes. Topographic maps originally published as paper documents between 1884-2006 have been scanned and published as the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection . Download our historical topographic maps and our more current US Top o maps (published 2009-present) free of charge using TopoView (GeoPDF, GeoTIFF, JPEG, and KMZ formats) or using the...

Are USGS reports/publications copyrighted?

USGS-authored or produced data and information are considered to be in the U.S. public domain and can be freely used without permission. All we ask is that you acknowledge the USGS as the source. While the content of most USGS webpages is in the U.S. public domain, not all information, illustrations, or photographs on our site are. Some non-USGS...
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Date published: July 19, 2017

Historical Maps at Your Fingertips

Earlier this month, the USGS launched “TopoView 2.1”, an enhancement to the current popular TopoView mapping service that lets users discover, interact, and download historical USGS topographic maps scans.

Date published: July 5, 2017

Finding Yourself Outdoors

Updated USGS digital topographic maps feature more trails and other recreation points of interest

Filter Total Items: 5
December 18, 2017

Lesson 9a: Accessing US Topo and Historical USGS Topographic Maps

In this lesson, we will discuss the USGS Store and how it can be used to access the US Topo and historical USGS Topographic maps. Specifically, this lesson will talk about the USGS Store, both where it’s accessed and what’s available at the store, as well as how you can locate and download free topographic maps through the store. 
 

June 1, 2017

TopoView - A look at version 2.1

A tutorial by USGS scientist and topoView developer Chris Garrity demonstrating how to use topoView version 2.1. TopoView let's you access and download maps free of charge from the USGS's Historical Topographic Map Collection, published between 1884 and 2006. 

Resources:
An Introduction to TopoView (version 1.0)

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Screen shot of US Topo Story Map
August 18, 2016

US Topo Story Map – Topographic Maps for the Nation

US Topo Story Map – Topographic Maps for the Nation

video thumbnail: US Topo
February 29, 2012

US Topo

US Topo is the next generation of topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Arranged in the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle format, digital US Topo maps are designed to look and feel (and perform) like the traditional paper topographic maps for which the USGS is so well known. In contrast to paper-based maps, US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages

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Little River Gorge quadrangle, Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Little River Gorge quadrangle, Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Little River Gorge quadrangle, Great Smoky Mountain National Park