How to Read a Lake Map

How to Read a Lake Map
Professional lake maps provide a wealth of essential information for both anglers and recreational boaters, including water depths, hazardous underwater structures and preferable channels through which to travel. Learning how to read a lake map will enable you to navigate the waters both effectively and safely.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Lake map
 
Step 1
Locate your map's legend or key---often found in a box or other clearly delineated space. The legend contains vital information meant to help you both navigate the lake and steer clear of potential hazards lurking below the surface. Consider acquiring a different map if yours does not contain a legend or key.
Step 2
Calculate distance by using the scale, a tool which provides the relationship between distance on the map and distance on the earth's surface. While the scale is often represented by a line graphic, it is sometimes represented by a worded statement, such as "one inch equals one mile."
Step 3
Notice the color-coding. Often, lake maps use differing shades of blue, with the darker shades indicating deeper areas of water.
Step 4
Examine the contour lines, perhaps the most important---and difficult---part of a map to learn. Contour lines, which are actually complete circuits, extend from the shore and indicate the water's depth in stages, usually in feet. The closer contour lines are to one another, the greater the change in the water's depth, with numbers bisecting each line showing either the water's actual depth or its change in depth.
Step 5
Locate the best path for travel. This will often be a primary creek channel---usually the deepest area---which some maps show using channel markers. Locate any dams and your distance from them at various points to ensure safe passage.
Step 6
Examine the underwater terrain, which is often populated by structures and debris. Use the legend or key to identify old bridges, buildings, dams and other underwater reference points.
Step 7
Orient yourself using the map's compass, which typically provides "Due North." This will enable you to establish your bearings and point yourself and the map in identical directions.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
When fishing, use the map to locate ideal depths and habitats, which will depend entirely upon the species and the season. When using a digital map or GPS system, always bring a paper map as a backup.
 
When fishing, use the map to locate ideal depths and habitats, which will depend entirely upon the species and the season.
 
When using a digital map or GPS system, always bring a paper map as a backup.

Article Written By Charlie Troubadour

Charlie Troubadour began his professional writing career in 2005; he recently completed a hybrid memoir, and has published his writing in numerous national print and online magazines, including Trails.com and eHow. He writes primarily on higher education issues, including online learning, student financial aid and university degree programs.

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