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 individual data sources is included in the metadata file that’s attached to each US Topo’s GeoPDF file (open the file in Acrobat Reader and click on the paperclip icon) and each GeoTIFF file.

There are reasons to believe that the overall accuracy of the US Topo series is very good. High-accuracy geospatial data is increasingly common, mostly due to Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. The orthoimage layer in US Topo maps is derived from images of the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP). The production of these images is well controlled; they have an accuracy of 6 meters (~20 feet) or better. The match between US Topo vector layers and the orthoimage layer is generally very good, evidence that the maps meet traditional accuracy standards for most feature classes in most areas.

Regardless of actual accuracy, USGS maps and geospatial products are intended for general reference and are not authoritative or official for navigation or for any regulatory purpose.

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

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been the primary civilian mapping agency of the United States since 1879. The best known USGS maps are the 1:24,000-scale topographic maps, also known as 7.5-minute quadrangles. Download all dates and scales of USGS topographic maps free of charge from the following applications or order paper copies of all...

What is the vertical accuracy of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEMs?

The most recently published figure of absolute vertical accuracy of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEMs within the conterminous United States, in terms of the National Standard for Spatial Data Accuracy (NSSDA) at 95% confidence level, is 3.04 meters. It is important to note that the vertical accuracy actually varies significantly across the U.S...

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 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 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-...

Why don’t the boundaries on US Topo maps match and why are some missing?

Boundaries are an ongoing issue for the US Topo project due to the lack of national GIS datasets suitable for general-purpose, 1:24,000 scale maps. The earliest US Topo maps (2009-2010) showed no boundaries other than the U.S. national boundary. In 2011, state and county boundaries were added using TIGER data from the U.S. Census Bureau . Federal...

How do US Topo maps differ from historical USGS topographic maps?

Historically, USGS topographic maps were made using data from primary sources including direct field observations. Those maps were compiled, drawn, and edited by hand. By today's standards, those traditional methods are very expensive and time-consuming, and the USGS no longer has funding to make maps that way. A new USGS topographic map series...

Why don't the elevations on your maps agree with those provided by my GPS system? Which ones are correct?

They both might be correct. The reason that the elevations do not agree might be because they are set on different datums. Most maps use NAD27 and the elevations are based on mean sea level. Your GPS receiver uses WGS84 and the elevations are based on the NAD83 ellipsoid. These datum shifts can result in difference of tens of meters horizontal and...
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Date published: July 5, 2017

Finding Yourself Outdoors

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

Date published: August 18, 2016

Story Map - Topographic Maps for the Nation

The USGS National Geospatial Program has released an interactive Story Map giving viewers an overview of the US Topo map program

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. 

An Introduction to TopoView (version 1.0)

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

Image: Engineer's and Surveyor's Transit
July 13, 2009

Engineer's and Surveyor's Transit

Manufactured by C.L. Berger & Sons, Boston, Massachusetts, serial #27124. The company was founded by Christian Louis Berger (1842-1922) who was born at Stuttgart, Germany and moved to Boston in 1866. In 1871 he joined with George Louis Buff, and began trading as Buff & Berger. In 1898, after an acrimonious dispute over the roles that their sons would play in the