What sources were used to create the Boundaries, Structures and Transportation layers in The National Map?

Boundaries: Primary sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), International Boundary Commission (IBC) for the Canadian boundary, and the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) for the Mexican boundary. Boundaries include city, county, State, Federal lands, provinces, and territories; as well as cadastral data (where applicable), associated with Public Land Survey System (PLSS), and Indian lands.

Structures: Currently included at a national scope are hospitals, law enforcement, fire stations, and other similar essential facilities. This data was developed as part of an ongoing effort between Federal agencies and States. For The National Map, the primary sources for the data are states and volunteers associated with The National Map Corps. The USGS reconciles the collection of structures data with the location and feature names from the Geographic Names Information System, achieving a single baseline of data for State and Federal vector data sources as well as gazetteer applications.

Transportation: Roads are from U.S. Census Bureau's TIGER/Line Shapefile source content with some updates of major roads by the USGS, along with U.S. Forest Service road data over National Forests. Railroads were originally sourced from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory but the Federal Railroad Administration is now responsible for maintaining a national dataset. Airport runways are derived from the Federal Aviation Administration location points, with polygon geometry and locational updates provided by USGS.

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What map projections are used in The National Map tiled base map services and dynamic overlay services?

The projection used for all tiled base map services in The National Map is the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS 84) Web Mercator (Auxiliary Sphere) so that base map services can be used in combination with other common viewers. See Spatial Reference SR-ORG:6928 and Spatial Reference SR-ORG:7483 . Dynamic overlay services are in WGS84 (see Spatial...

What sources of vector data were used to create base maps?

Vector data for small scales are from The National Map Small-Scale Collection (formerly National Atlas), while medium to large scales are comprised of The National Map themes, to include the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) data. Other medium-to-large-scale vector features are from USGS edited...

What download formats are available for boundaries, structures, and transportation data products in The National Map?

Boundaries, structures, and transportation data products are currently available in Esri File Geodatabase 10.1 or Shapefile format. Use The National Map Downloader , The National Map Services , or download files staged at the below sites. USGS National Boundary Dataset USGS National Structures Dataset USGS National Transportation Dataset

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 often are boundaries, structures, and transportation products and services updated in the National Map?

Since the USGS obtains most boundaries, structures, and transportation data from external sources, the frequency of updates depends on the release schedule of the source products. Boundaries - updates are variable. Structures - data content for map services is targeted for quarterly refresh cycles, while updated products are immediately available...
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Date published: October 23, 2019

USGS Digital Elevation Models (DEM) Switching to New Distribution Format

In support of ongoing efforts to provide efficient, cloud ready, open data formats, the U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is announcing plans to migrate its 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) Digital Elevation Models (DEM) to a new data delivery format called Cloud Optimized Geotiff (COG) during the first half of fiscal year 2020.

Date published: February 7, 2019

USGS 3DEP Lidar Point Cloud Now Available as Amazon Public Dataset

The USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) is excited to announce the availability of a new way to access and process lidar point cloud data from the 3DEP repository.

Date published: July 31, 2017

Mapping Public Lands in the United States

The Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) is the official inventory of public parks and other protected areas in all U.S. states and territories.

Date published: July 5, 2017

Finding Yourself Outdoors

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

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video thumbnail: Elevation
April 30, 2012


The National Elevation Dataset (NED) is the primary elevation data product produced and distributed by the USGS National 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). The NED provides seamless raster elevation data of the conterminous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the island territories. The NED is derived from diverse source data sets that are processed to a specification with a

Image: Railroad Tracks
October 3, 2014

Railroad Tracks

Railroad tracks at Steamtown National Historic Site. Originally, rails were made of iron, but as steel production became more efficient, steel replaced it and is still used today.

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)

November 18, 2004

PubTalk 11/2004 — From Plane Tables to Pixels

The Revolution in Mapping at the U.S. Geological Survey

by Susan P. Benjamin, Research Geographer

  • Mapping the United States in the 19th century was arduous, dangerous work; flash floods, bears, and bandits were just a few hazards
  • By the mid-20th century, aerial photography, photogrammetry, and stereophoto pairs, allowed