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 land boundaries are being added as the relevant agencies are able to provide data. U.S. Forest Service (USFS) areas were added in 2011. National Park Service lands, Fish and Wildlife Service lands, and military reservations were added in 2013. We hope to add federal wilderness areas in 2018.

Unlike traditional hand-drawn maps, boundaries on US Topo maps don't always align as one would expect because different sources have not yet reconciled their data. This leads to some odd visual effects, such as the southern boundary of Texas (from the Census Bureau) not perfectly matching the U.S.-Mexico boundary (from the International Boundary and Water Commission, or IBWC). In this particular case, the Census Bureau has committed to adjusting their data to match the IBWC data. Other cases, such as adjacent National Forests and National Parks, are more difficult but will be resolved over time by the appropriate agencies.

An important detail to keep in mind is that USGS maps are general reference publications and are never legally authoritative sources of boundary information. 

Related Content

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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...

How can I submit a question or report issues regarding The National Map products and services?

Submit questions or report issues to The National Map service desk at: tnm_help@usgs.gov

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

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-...

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 Downloader . Put a checkmark...

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...

I found an error on a map. How can I report it and when will you fix it?

There are different answers to this question for different products. In all cases, we must know what product you are addressing. Please read the following guidelines and email error reports to tnm_help@usgs.gov : US Topo maps (topographic maps published 2009-present) Please include the following information: The map title, state, and date (from...

Why are there no power lines, pipelines, libraries, trails, etc. on US Topo maps?

The original USGS 7.5-minute (1:24,000 scale) Historical Topographic Maps (produced 1945-1992) included feature classes that are not yet shown on US Topo maps (produced 2009-present). Examples include recreational trails, pipelines, power lines, survey markers, many types of boundaries, and many types of buildings. The USGS no longer does field...
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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

Date published: November 19, 2015

US Topo Maps Reach Milestone

With the release of new US Topo maps for Illinois and South Dakota, the USGS has completed the second, three-year cycle of revising and updating electronic US Topo quadrangles. This means that since late 2009, the USGS has published nearly every map in the conterminous U.S., twice.

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Boundaries datasets for the nation from The National Map.
April 19, 2016

Boundaries

Boundaries datasets for the nation from The National Map.

Image: Boundary Monument 75E, Southeastern Arizona - 2009
April 24, 2009

Boundary Monument 75E, Southeastern Arizona - 2009

An anti-vehicle barricade has been constructed across this section of the international boundary. Grass cover has increased in the foreground, providing evidence of the site’s grassland connection. (Raymond M. Turner)

Attribution: Land Resources
Image: Boundary Monument 75E, Southeastern Arizona - 1994
August 21, 1994

Boundary Monument 75E, Southeastern Arizona - 1994

During the past century, the grassland has continued to become more shrubby with increases in such plants as broom snakeweed and velvet mesquite. The mesquite, occurring here near the upper limits of its range, has remained short, probably as the result of catastrophic freezes that have visited the area. Bush muhly is found beneath some of the mesquites. (Raymond M  Turner

...
Attribution: Land Resources
Quadrangles of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with new water and boundary data

Great Smoky NPS quad, new water and boundaries

Updated 2016 US Topo map section within Great Smoky Mountains National Park showing Park boundary and enhanced water data compared to the same 2013 US Topo map. (1:24,000 scale)