.panel-collapse { display:block !important; } #collapse2 { display:block !important } Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Today's hours:

See all library hours »

  • Ask a Librarian
  • FAQ

Maps and Atlases

This is a guide to finding maps and atlases in print and online.

Reading a Topographic Map

 

"Interpreting the colored lines, areas, and other symbols is the first step in using topographic maps. Features are shown as points, lines, or areas, depending on their size and extent. For example, individual houses may be shown as small black squares. For larger buildings, the actual shapes are mapped. In densely built-up areas, most individual buildings are omitted and an area tint is shown. On some maps, post offices, churches, city halls, and other landmark buildings are shown within the tinted area ..." For more information on reading maps, see USGS Topographic Map Symbols.

What is a Topographic Map?

 

"A map is a representation of the Earth, or part of it. The distinctive characteristic of a topographic map is that the shape of the Earth's surface is shown by contour lines. Contours are imaginary lines that join points of equal elevation on the surface of the land above or below a reference surface, such as mean sea level. Contours make it possible to measure the height of mountains, depths of the ocean bottom, and steepness of slopes.

A topographic map shows more than contours. The map includes symbols that represent such features as streets, buildings, streams, and vegetation ..." -- USGS Topographic Map Symbols

USGS Topographic Maps at Vassar

USGS Topographic Maps Online