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 was launched in 2009 and branded "US Topo." Though designed to look like traditional 7.5-minute topographic maps, US Topo maps are mass-produced from secondary sources, primarily The National Map and other government GIS databases. US Topo maps are a repackaging of GIS data in traditional map form for the benefit of non-specialist map users. 

One of the main differences is that the historical USGS 7.5-minute topographic map series (produced 1945-1992) included feature classes that are not yet shown on US Topo maps (though more are added each year). Examples include recreational trails, pipelines, power lines, survey markers, many types of boundaries, and many types of buildings. 

US Topo maps are, however, superior to historical USGS topographic maps in some ways. Individual layers can be turned on and off to allow map customization and the inclusion of more data. US Topo maps include a high-resolution aerial photograph (orthimage). Thanks to automated production, US Topos have a rapid national refresh cycle (3 years), as opposed to 45 years for the historical 7.5-minute map series. That leads to continuous and relatively rapid product improvement.

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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...

Will US Topo maps become part of the Historical Topographic Map Collection when a newer version is published?

Superseded US Topo maps will remain available for download, but will not become part of the Historical Topographic Map Collection , which is scans of USGS topographic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 They are updated and superseded every 3 years (maps for one...

How current are US Topo maps?

US Topo maps are updated on a three-year production cycle (maps covering one third of the country are updated each year). The US Topo production schedule follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) collection schedule. This does not include US Topos for Alaska, which are on a different schedule . The...

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 includes 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-...

Can I import a US Topo map into my Geographic Information System (GIS)?

Most GIS vendors do not yet provide geospatial PDF import capabilities. US Topo maps are derived from GIS data sets and are formatted as PDF for the benefit of non-specialist users. We consider the product to be primarily an output of—rather than an input to—GIS. However, we recognize the demand for symbolized maps in GIS, and we are working on a...

Are US Topo products available for Alaska?

Yes. Publication of 1:25,000-scale US Topo maps in Alaska began in 2013. The production schedule is determined by availability of IFSAR elevation data and SPOT imagery provided by the Alaska Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative . To see an index map of publication dates for US Topos in Alaska, go to the National Map Download Client . Put a...

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): Most maps in the period 2010-2016 contain commercially licensed road data (see note below). Orthoimages in Alaska are commercially licensed...

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...
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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

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

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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. 

December 18, 2017

Lesson 8a: US Topos Created after June 2017

In this lesson we will demonstrate how to open and manipulate data layers using Adobe Reader DC and Adobe Acrobat Pro. We will also learn how to use basic tools like panning, zooming and making measurements.

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