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About US Topo Maps

Building on the success of 125 years of USGS topographic mapping, the US Topo quadrangle is a new and improved generation of maps of the American landscape. The earlier prototype digital topographic maps, "Digital Maps - Beta", have been replaced with US Topo maps and are no longer available for distribution.

US Topo maps are a graphic synthesis of The National Map data files and are produced in the familiar 7.5-minute by 7.5- minute geographic format. Modeled on the printed, legacy USGS topographic maps, they are digital files that are available for free Web download from the USGS Store, (printed copies can be ordered for a fee). The digital presentation (GeoPDF®) enables limited geospatial analysis. Downloaded US Topo maps are usually 15 to 20 megabytes and are organized in theme-based layers to be compatible with widely available display and analytical tools.

The US Topo production cycle follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) 3-year acquisition cycle so that the latest NAIP imagery forms the base layer of US Topo maps.

Current US Topo map layers include an orthoimage base, transportation, geographic names, topographic contours, boundaries, hydrography and woodlands. Also included are the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) and the United States National Grid (USNG).

US Topo Product Standard

US Topo Map Symbols

High-resolution scanned files of all historical versions of USGS topographic maps also are available for free download through the USGS Store.

US Topo Vision

The US Topo map product is based on focused requirements: create a digital map that preserves the look and feel of the traditional, legacy USGS 7.5-minute topographic map and that combines an image with the best available data from The National Map.


The USGS completed national US Topo coverage of the lower 48 States in October 2012. Production of US Topo maps for Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are planned for 2013. Data sources for the U.S Virgin Islands and Pacific Territories are being assessed for eventual production of US Topo maps.

Production History:

During the three years that it took to produce these maps, it was increasingly evident to USGS cartographic designers that draping conventional map symbols over an aerial image created legibility issues. In 2011, USGS initiated a research project with the Pennsylvania State University to help redesign the US Topo so that it portrays map symbols over an image with greater clarity. As a result, the USGS is incorporating design improvements that will result in a more legible US Topo product.

Design Improvements:

One key change will be the addition of a topographic shaded relief layer that will provide a stunning visual portrayal of relief. Another improvement will be the addition of a symbol legend. Initially, USGS will show a static legend but as development continues a dynamic legend will show only those features that are included on the map.

Additional Content:

More features to be added in 2013 include Department of Defense, National Park Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service reservation boundaries; US Forest Service trails; and schools. Future new data sets include National Geodetic Survey control points and bathymetry.

Under Consideration:

Another design enhancement being considered is the addition of a continuous land cover layer based on the USGS National Land Cover Dataset. Other possibilities including use of a road classification schema based on how the road is used and use of different typefaces are to be evaluated. New anticipated functionalities include the capability to place annotations on the US Topo map image and the ability to download symbolized map data into a geodatabase so they can be ingested into a GIS.

This is a very exciting time for the National Geospatial Program and US Topo customers. Emerging and improved data and mapping technologies are constantly becoming available to improve display of the data while reducing overall program costs. Going forward, the new US Topo map content and capabilities will be primarily driven by current and anticipated needs of priority groups of map and data users. These priority groups or Communities of Use are: water resource and flood risk management; geologic mapping; natural hazards; and natural resource conservation. Our challenge will be to balance the needs of these communities, with the needs of users outside these four groups, and do it all with the available program resources.

US Topo Work Plan

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Page Last Modified: Friday, 16-Aug-2013 08:56:38 EDT