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Government Information

This is a guide to government resources that are commonly used in research.

The United States Geological Survey

Logo for the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

As the Nation's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, USGS collects, monitors, analyzes and provides science about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. Our diverse expertise enables us to carry out large-scale, multidisciplinary investigations and provide impartial scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers.*

*From the Who We Are Section of the USGS official website.

USGS For College Students

Geologic Maps|| Maps and Geospatial Data|| Purchase USGS Paper Maps and Earth As Art Images|| Satellite Imagery and Remote Sensing|| Topographic Maps|| 

*Links transposed from the USGS College: Geography website

The most commonly used USGS sources for geospatial data. Some (but not all!) of this is targeted to GIS (Geographic Information System) users.

Classroom activities that teach about maps and cartography. Some of the activities can be completed using GIS software.

Download free, seamless orthoimagery, elevation, geographic names, hydrography, boundaries, transportation, structures, and land cover for the entire U.S. Offers interoperability with ArcGIS and viewers like Google Earth, popular GIS tools, and other advanced features. New users might benefit from reading a fact sheet before starting.   

Go to the USGS Store and click on "Map Locator and Downloader" to download free USGS topographic map quadrangles in georeferenced PDF (GeoPDF) format. Both historical topographic maps and US Topo maps are available. Other file formats for topographic maps are available.

A national inventory of significant topographic changes based on seamless elevation data and land cover data. Most topographic changes result from surface mining, road construction, urban development, dam construction, and landfills.

Download hundreds of reference maps for individual states and for all of the United States. These are specifically designed to print on 8.5"x11" paper for classroom use. Includes unlabeled outline maps of the U.S. Formerly available on the National Atlas website.

This exercise uses clear plastic take-out lids, each marked with a different elevation line and stacked to produce a 3D topographic map. It includes a base map of Angel Island (San Francisco Bay) but can be adapted to any local topographic feature.

Download free USGS topographic map quadrangles in georeferenced PDF (GeoPDF) format by clicking on "Map Locator" on the USGS Store Web site. These files were created using high-resolution scans and average 10-17 megabytes in size. You can search by location, theme, name, and other means to locate the area of interest. 

This site contains information on US Topo, the next generation of topographic maps which integrate historical topographic maps with more frequent GIS updates. US Topo maps are available for any new topographic map produced after 2009 and directions on how to access are available here: 

A quick and easy way to find and order printed USGS products: paper maps, Earth as Art satellite images, satellite mosaics of all states, books, and other publications. Recreation passes are also sold here. Previews are available for most of the popular products. Click on "Education Products" to browse maps and print publications that are popular with educators. Click on "Map Locator" to download free digital topographic maps.   

Geologic maps describe the rocks and soils at the surface, provide information about what rocks lie at depth, describe the ages of rocks and soils, and show where features such as earthquake faults and landslides lie. This resource page is particularly useful to help students understand geologic maps of areas near where they live or study.

This exhaustive database provides bibliographic access to many thousands of geologic, geophysical, and other kinds of maps available in USGS publications, Web sites, popular science journals, and more.   

Shaded relief and geology are combined on this map of the 48 conterminous states. It's a useful resource for discussing physiographic provinces and for viewing the location of rocks deposited during different geologic time periods. Download a free PDF or purchase a paper copy through the USGS Store.     

The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain is woven from a geologic map and a shaded relief image. This digital combination reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography, and time. Regional surface processes, as well as continent-scale tectonic events, are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time. Download PDF files or purchase a paper copy from the USGS Store.