Reading Topographic Maps

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					                                           Reading Topographic Maps

  Teacher Guide
       Overview This activity provides an introduction to topographic map
                        reading. Students learn some basic concepts and then
                        answer a series of questions based on topographic maps
                        of the local area. A variety of map features are utilized to
                        enhance the understanding of difference of scale and
                              1.2 – Draw conclusions from different kinds of maps
      Oklahoma PASS           2.1 – Apply the concepts of scale and orientation
          Objectives          2.2 – Compare physical maps
       (6th Social Studies)   2.3 – Recognize and locate basic landforms on maps

                              Standard 1 – Use maps and other technologies to report
 National Geography                         information
                              Standard 3 – Analyze the organization of people on
           Standards                       Earth’s surface
                              Standard 14 – How human actions modify the physical

   Grade Level Middle School. Can be modified with additional
                        questions for higher levels.

  GIS Skill Level None. GIS software is not needed for this activity (though
                        it can be used as a map viewer if desired).

     Other Skills Students should have had some introduction to map
                        symbols and basic map features.

              Time Should be completed in one 50-minute class.

  Teacher Note Questions should be modified to reference a specific set
                        of topographic maps for the student’s local region.

Reading Topographic Maps                                                  Teacher Guide 1
                                         Reading Topographic Maps

  Teacher Guide
     This is not a GIS activity, but the students should be able to view
     topographic maps to answer the questions.

     USGS Map Sets (Provided by Oklahoma State Cartography Services)
     • Topographic Map Quads, 1:24000 – Lake Carl Blackwell, Stillwater SW, Stillwater
     North, Stillwater South, Glencoe, Ripley
     • Topographic Map Quads, 1:25000 – Enid, Oklahoma City

    Lesson Preparation
     This project should be based on the features of local topographic
     maps. Students should be given a chance to get to know the
     standard features of a topographic map before beginning the actual

Developed by Steve O’Connell

Reading Topographic Maps                                                  Teacher Guide 2
                                     Reading Topographic Maps

Maps are the basis of all geographic work. Without a map, it would be very
difficult to understand the spatial characteristics about a place. One of the
most widely-used map types is a topographic map. Topographic maps
display elevation and landscape features as well as generalized human-
created features.
In this activity, you will familiarize yourself with the features of topographic
maps. Even though there are a number of variations in topographic maps,
they generally use similar display techniques and it is important to recognize
symbols and information in each of the different forms. After a brief
introduction to some concepts, you will use a set of topographic maps to
answer a series of questions.
  Step 1                                          Getting to Know the Map

     Topographic maps from the USGS generally use a standardized
     format. This is important because it allows users to understand a map
     from any part of the country without learning a new set of standards.

     The information in the margins of the map are the most important
     and you should review these before trying to read the map itself. The
     two most important pieces of information are:

     • Scale – Located at the bottom of the map in the center. Scale is
                noted in several formats but the most widely-used is the
                ratio shown with the map distance and corresponding
                earth distance (example 1:24000)
     • Contour Interval – Usually located below the scale bars at the
                bottom of the map. The contour interval varies from map
                to map depending on the local terrain so it is extremely
                important to check the interval value before referencing
                the map.
     These are not the only pieces of information in the margins of the
     map. Some of the others include:

     • Map Quadrangle Name – The name of the map is usually noted in
                both the upper right corner and the lower left corner. The
                map is named for the most prominent feature (man-made
                or natural). The names of adjoining topo sheets are usually
                located along the sides and corners of the map.
     • Map Producer Information – On a USGS topo sheet, this information
                is at the top left corner, but other types of maps will list it
                with the other map information at the bottom, usually on
                the left-hand side.
     • Declination Diagram – Located to the left of the scale information,
                the declination diagram provides map and compass users
                with information on the local declination to Magnetic
                North. The angle listed is the local difference between true
                and Magnetic North.

Reading Topographic Maps                                                          2
  Step 2                                         Using Topographic Maps

     Today, you will learn to identify features on topographic maps by
     answering some questions about some maps that are located in
     different places around the classroom.

     When your teacher tells you, go to one of the map locations. You will
     answer the questions in the rest of this activity using the maps. The
     map station you are at will determine what series of questions you will
     answer. Make sure you are answering the correct questions for the
     map you are viewing.

     Map Set 1:

        1. What is the name, scale (ratio), and contour interval of this map?
               LAKE CARL BLACKWELL; 1:24000; 10 FEET

        2. You probably have noticed that Lake McMurtry is shaded purple.
                There are other features on the map that are also purple.
                Why are these features purple? (Hint: Read the map
                information at the bottom)

        3. What is the name of the topographic Quadrangle located to the
               west of this one?
               ORLANDO EAST

        4. On USGS topographic maps, township sections are noted with a
                red number in the center. If there are no section-line roads,
                a red line is used to depict the section boundary. In what
                section is the Spillway from Lake Carl Blackwell located?

Reading Topographic Maps                                                        3
     Map Set 2:

        5. What is the name, scale (ratio), and contour interval of this map?
               STILLWATER SW; 1:24000; 10 FEET

        6. What is the declination (in Degrees) to Magnetic North from this
               7 ½ DEGREES

        7. The town of Marena is located two miles south of Highway 51
                 and two miles east of the Indian Meridian. What is the
                 elevation at Marena? (Make sure you note your units!!!!!!!!!)
                 1097 FEET

        8. What is the last revision or edit date for this map?

     Map Set 3:

        9. What is the name, scale (ratio), and contour interval of this map?
               STILLWATER NORTH; 1:24000; 10 FEET

       10. What does the red shaded area in Stillwater represent?
              BUILT-UP OR URBAN AREA

       11. What is the name of the Railroad line that served Stillwater when
              this map was made?

       12. What is the name of Stillwater High School on this map?
              DONART HIGH SCHOOL

Reading Topographic Maps                                                         4
     Map Set 4:

       13. What is the name, scale (ratio), and contour interval of this
              STILLWATER SOUTH; 1:24000; 10 FEET
       14. To the south of Stillwater, north of Stillwater Creek, you should
                notice a pattern of green dots. What does that pattern
                AN ORCHARD

       15. Driving on Highway 51, how far is it to Yale? To Tulsa?
                 19 MILES; 65 MILES

       16. Sunset Memorial Gardens is a cemetery located about four
               miles south of Stillwater on Highway 177 in Section 11. What
               is the elevation of the contour that runs through the
               990 FEET

     Map Set 5:

       17. What is the name, scale (ratio), and contour interval of this
              GLENCOE; 1:24000; 10 FEET
       18. Just to the north of Glencoe, the Cimarron Turnpike and the
                 Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad cross. Based on
                 the information on the map, which one crosses on top of
                 the other?
                 THE CIMARRON TURNPIKE

       19. On the western edge of the map, you should see a red dashed
               line cutting through the middle of several sections. In
               several places the line divides an area of green and an
               area without green. What might this apparent line

Reading Topographic Maps                                                       5
     Map Set 6:

       20. What is the name, scale (ratio), and contour interval of this
              RIPLEY; 1:24000; 10 FEET

       21. According to the map, does the town of Mehan have a
       22. In a number of locations along the Cimarron River you should
                 see a tan/brown dotted pattern. What do these symbols
                 SAND BARS
       23. Do you best on this one: What is the highest contour line present
                 on this Quadrangle?
                 1030 FEET

     Map Set 7:

     The two maps in this set are slightly different than the others in this
     activity. You should make sure to note the differences.

       24. What is the scale (ratio), and contour interval of these maps?
              1:250000; 100 FEET

       25. On the Enid Map find Morrison. What is the elevation listed for
               Morrison? (Make sure you note your units!!!!!!!!!)
               955 FEET

       26. What is the name of the Railroad that passes through Morrison?
              ST. LOUIS – SAN FRANCISCO

Reading Topographic Maps                                                       6

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