Terra Galleria Photography

Free Maps of National Parks (and of the rest of the country too)

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I just saw National Parks maps in PDF format for sale here. A quick glance at the sample Acadia National Park map was enough to determine that those are in fact the excellent maps produced and distributed by the National Park Service.

You may not be aware of that, but everything produced by the US government is in the public domain. This has been the case for a while. To digress a bit, the government commissioned (“work for hire”, paid with taxpayer dollars) the landmark photographic survey of the Farm Security Administration in the thirties, which included images by photographers such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. All the resulting images are public domain, and many can be seen and downloaded here.

Back to the parks, if you go to the NPS page for Acadia, and click on “View Map”, you’ll get access to exactly the same file. Now, this viewer is nice, but maybe you’d like to download a PDF for off-line use ? I didn’t see any way to do that from the Acadia page.

Here is a tip for my readers. Many of the NPS documents are available from the little known Harpers Ferry Center site. For instance, the maps can be found nps.gov/carto. Just click on a state (for example Maine), and you will be given links to full size, downloadable PDF maps (if the “Adobe Acrobat PDF” link doesn’t work, be sure to try the “Alternate direct link”).

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with repackaging in a more convenient form, and reselling data which in itself is available for free. To begin with, that’s what the USGS was doing by selling to you maps on paper. The information was free, but not the medium. To download all the maps manually will take a little more time. But I thought you’d like to know it can be done.

Looking for topographic maps instead ? The USGS is phasing out the 7.5-minute (1:24000) paper maps, and has set-up a new site US Topo, where the updated maps can be downloaded, all for free. That’s a serious number of files ! If this overwhelms you, National Geographic, amongst others, has been selling those on CD for a while.

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