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What is a topographic map

All of Canada has been mapped as part of the National Topographic System. A grid system, based upon the lines of latitude and longitude, has been developed, dividing the country into uniformly-sized 1:250,000 scale map sheets. These map sheets are further subdivided into 16 separate sections, covered by 1:50,000 scale maps.

Choose the scale that suits your needs. A 1:250,000 scale map is useful in driving to a particular site, while a 1:50,000 scale map would be helpful once you have reached your destination and set out on a hike.


Understanding Scale

The 1:250,000 scale map encompasses a large area, 80 mile by 80 mile, and is considered to be a reconnaissance type map. This scale is popular, not only as a detailed overview of a large area, but also as a detailed road map for use when traveling on back roads and side roads.

The 1:50,000 scale map, encompasses a 20 mi. x 20 mi. area, and provides greater detail than the 1:250,000 scale topographic maps. These maps are ideal for recreational activities, such as canoeing, hiking, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, camping and cycling. Maps at this scale are used by all levels of government and industry for such things as flood control, forest fire prevention, resource planning, environmental issues and real estate planning. The location of farm buildings, dugouts, cut lines and other features are shown. The lay of the land is well depicted as the contours or lines of equal elevation are shown in intervals of 25 feet or 10 metres.

Keep in mind the names of topographic maps do not necessarily mean that the whole feature appears on that specific map or is the focus of the map. For example, map 063K02 - Cormorant Lake (1:50,000 scale) does not show the entire lake. Other maps will be required for complete lake coverage.


For the GPS Users

For those using a handheld global positioning system (GPS), the 1:50,000 scale topographic maps detail the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) grid and latitude and longitude. Either of these grid co-ordinates can be entered into a GPS unit and used as waypoints.


How to Order Maps

Use the index maps for all of Canada to identify the maps you require. Note the identification code (e.g. 52E for the 1:250,000 scale map sheet or 52E16 for the 1:50,000 scale map sheet) and the number of copies you require. Remember the 1:50,000 scale maps are the most detailed.

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