What Are Topographic Maps?

What Are Topographic Maps?A topographic map is a type of map that shows the contours of an area in great detail. The map also graphically represents the terrain--such as rivers, roads and types of vegetation--via marks or symbols. Topographic maps also show manmade objects, such as bridges, property divisions and some buildings. Aerial views can also be included, showing real-life snapshots of an area that have been taken from an airplane or satellite.


When hiking or traveling to a destination, a topographic map will allow you to keep up with the various features of the natural landscape you will encounter along the way. Even when you know the distance involved in a journey and possess a regular map, it may sometimes be difficult to find a destination by the crossroads alone. A topographic map will show natural landscape elements as well as manmade structures that will define exactly where you the traveler are located. Topographic maps are essential for the outdoor enthusiast as you make your way to your destination.


Topographic maps can be color-coordinated to more easily identify the type of terrain or area that one is searching for. Mountains, forests and bodies of water take up most of the space on a topographic map. Bridges, state parks, renowned hiking trails and popular campgrounds can also be indicated. Schools, historical sites and vacation destinations are also elements of most topographic maps, and can be recognized by specific symbols.


The size of a topographic map varies depending on the way in which it is accessed. Online, a topographic map can be viewed in increments as the search query is formulated. Online topographic maps carry an extensive amount of information, and are a great resource for finding detailed information. Handheld topographic maps can be taken on trips to provide detailed information about the environment you are visiting.


With a topographic map, you can easily discern your location by glancing at the physical structure of the environment in which you are located. A topographic map can be accessed online and printed out, or it can be carried throughout an expedition or travel experience. Many maps are used for educational purposes only, and can be found in resource volumes and encyclopedias to be used in the writing of reports or research papers.


The main purpose of a topographic map is to provide accurate and detailed positioning of a person or object. Incorporating landscapes and landmarks within an area, the topographic map utilizes visual markings to guide travelers and inform them how far one location is from another.

Article Written By Julie

Julie is an outdoor enthusiast and freelance writer. She enjoys hiking and camping the North Woods of Michigan, as well as remote regions of Canada. She spends her free time backpacking and exploring new and unchartered territory on all of her outdoor expeditions.

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