~ Topographic Maps ~
What is a topographic (topo) map?
- Topography is the study of Earth's surface shape and features.
- Topographic Maps record the relief (elevation) of the terrain, the three dimensional quality of the surface and identification of specific landforms.
- A Topo Map shows elevation above sea level.
- Brown colored Contour Lines are lines of equal elevation above sea level.
FYI: Sea Level is the average height of the ocean's surface and is
calculated as the half way point between mean high tide and mean low tide.
( Sea Level = 0 foot contour line )
Topo Maps are color coded:
BROWN: Contour Lines of Elevation
WHITE: Area of No Vegetation
GREEN: Vegetation (Forests, Grasslands)
BLUE: Water (Sea, Ocean, Lake, River, Pond)
BLACK: Man-Made Features (Buildings, Roads, Mines)
RED: Significant Manmade Features (Highway, Government Area)
PINK: Densely Populated Urban (City) Area
GRAY: Built Up Area
The Topography is a Changin'
by Mr. Flick
Click here: Topo Map Song
What are the elevations of the Peabody and Sanborn Middle Schools?
Peabody Middle School
(207 feet above sea level)
Sanborn Middle School
(192 feet above sea level)
BELOW: TOPOGRAPHIC MAP OF CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS
Click here: Maps on Line - Concord, MA
~ TOPOGRAPHIC MAP SYMBOLS ~
Click here: Take the Topo Map Symbol Quiz
Swamp or Marsh
More Topographic Map Symbols:
Contour Lines show elevation above sea level.
Index Contour Lines are shown in bold.
QUESTION: What are the elevations of points A through D?
Can you figure out the elevation of points A throuth J?
Another Test of your Knowledge:
Match the contour number on the left with the profile letter on the right.
Orienteering: Topographic Map and Compass Combination
Orienteering as a Sport: A Race to Find Map Markers
Can you find all orienteering markers...and be the first to the finish line?
Geocaching: An Orienteering Scavenger Hunt for Hidden GPS Containers
GPS: Global Positioning System
Letterboxing: An Orienteering Scavenger Hunt for Stamp Boxes
Click here: Other Types of Maps
(Political Maps, Economic Maps, Resource Maps, Physical Maps, Climate Maps, Relief Maps, Road Maps)
Surveyors use "Benchmarks" to mark mountaintop elevations.
USGS BM: United States Geological Survey Bench Mark
Mt. Whitney, California (14,494 feet above sea level)
(Highest mountain in the continental US)
Mount Greylock (3,489 feet above sea level)
(Highest point in Massachusetts, Berkshire Mountains)
Mount McKinley, Alaska (20,320 feet above sea level)
(Highest mountain in the USA)
Highpointers Club - Climbing the Highest Peaks in all 50 States
Mount Everest, Nepal (29,035 ft / 8850 meters above sea level)
Who Creates Topo Maps? SURVEYORS
Modern Surveyor - GPS Satellite
Groovy Colored Topo vs. Black and White Topo
Use the topographic map BELOW to answer the THUNDERSTORM question.
QUESTION: Throughout the area shown in the map, a thunderstorm dropped about 3 inches of rain in less than two hours. Which point on the map would be in the greatest danger of flooding?
A) point A
B) point B
C) point C
D) point D
FYI: Brown contour lines show elevation. Notice that Point A is only 18 meters above sea level. It is also on the river, and when there is rain, the banks can oveflow onto the floodplain. Point B is on a tributary stream, but is higher in elevation than Point A. Points C and D are located on a hill (concentric circles) and are higher in elevation. Compared to points B,C and D, Point A is at the lowest elevation on the topographic map above. Water flows downhill due to gravity.
Click here: How to read a Topographic Map / Activity
Click here: View another sample question on this topic