How to Draw a Topographical Map

How to Draw a Topographical Map
It's late July and you are getting ready for antelope season in the Eastern plains of Colorado. Suddenly, you find signs of a big herd and then stumble upon a trophy buck. There are no trails, trees or water to reference, so how are you going to find your spot again without a GPS device? Draw a topo map on the go.


Difficulty: Moderate

Drawing a Topographical Map on the Fly

Things You’ll Need:
  • Pencil or pen
  • Paper
Step 1
Start by marking the spot that you want to find in the middle of the paper. This will be your base elevation.
Step 2
Determine how much elevation detail you are going to record. If you are in drastic terrain, you may measure changes of 20 to 50 feet. In less drastic terrain, it may be 5 to 10 feet.
Step 3
Draw a circle around your spot based on how much area is the same elevation around your spot and where the decided-upon elevation change occurs.
Step 4
Note the severity of change in the elevation you can see in a 360 degree view from where you stand. For example, if you are looking at a cliff, you will draw lines for every __ feet the cliff rises above your spot. These lines will be close together because the elevation change is drastic.
Step 5
Start heading back to where you came from, and draw a line as you walk, marking the path to the spot. Continue to note the appropriate changes as you travel the trail. Note also the elevation changes around your area as you walk.
Step 6
When you arrive at a major landmark (road, river, etc.), survey and note the elevation changes for the entire area surrounding the spot where you have intersected with the landmark.
Step 7
As soon as you can, get your hands on a United States Geological Survey topographical map of the area you were in and use the topographical details that you created to find the spot where you were and note it on the more detailed map.

Article Written By Mati Bishop

Mati Bishop has been a freelance writer since 1999. He has been published in "Hawaii Skin Diver Magazine," the "Hawaii Wellness Directory," "Kailua-Kaneohe Sunpress" and a collection of Web sites. Bishop studied journalism at Windward Community College on Oahu, Hawaii.

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