A topographic map displays natural and man-made objects.
Imagine looking down on a sprawling farm from atop a skyscraper — you’ll see a distant, 3-D view of the property’s features, like rolling hills, a winding creek with a bridge, a long driveway and a farmhouse and barn. Topographical maps, in either aerial photographs or hand-drawn depiction’s, provide literal depth and breadth of the Earth’s surface. These 3-D maps include everything from mountains and rivers to highways and cities. The topographic map, enhanced with contour lines, colors and other optical aids and symbols, makes the Earth’s surface visually “pop” off a 2-D piece of paper.
Cities and Towns
The topographic map usually designates gray or purple shading for cities and towns or any other mass, human disturbance. These colors optically contrast well against the brown contour lines of the topographic map. The brown “rings” of varying widths show steepness, elevation and direction of the land’s surface. Find each map’s indicated values for elevation printed along the contour lines.
Depending on the size of the area covered by the map, individual buildings might be included. General buildings would show as black, checkered or vertically-striped rectangles or squares. Large buildings may be shown in the particular shape of the structure. A small black box donning a flag signifies a house, while a cross on a black box symbolizes a place of worship.
Roads and Bridges
Topographically designed maps indicate roads and highways with black, red or gray lines, depending on the roadway type. Typically, two black, parallel lines filled in with red, indicate a main highway. A gray line, or two colorless black parallel lines refer to a less used road. A highway or road, under construction, would show as broken, parallel lines. An unpaved road is indicated by a single broken line.
Additional Human-Made Objects
A train-track is visually marked as a solid black line, intersected by evenly spaced short lines. Vineyards display as layers of gray lines and orchards as dotted, gray strips — both span the farm’s distance as indicated on the map. Recreation sites sport red, boxed symbols, such as a snowflake for winter activities, and a picnic table or tent for picnic spots or overnight camping. National, state, county and township boundaries repeat various patterns of long, black lines followed by shorter black lines in varying shades — the higher the geographical ranking, the darker the lines.