USGS Topographic Map Symbols

USGS topographic maps use dozens of symbols to convey geographic features. Following is a complete listing of symbols and their meanings.

Click on a category to go directly to that section, or browse through all pages in sequence.

Control Data and Monuments

Coastal Features

Contours

Bathymetric Features

Boundaries

Rivers, Lakes, and Canals

Land Survey Systems

Submerged Areas

Surface Features

Buildings and Related Features

Mines and Caves

Roads and Related Features

Vegetation

Railroads and Related Features

Glaciers and Permanent Snowfields

Transmission Lines and Pipelines

On a standard large-scale topographic map, the colors used and the features each represent are:

a.   Black. Indicates cultural (man-made) features such as buildings and roads, surveyed spot elevations, and all labels.

b.   Red-Brown. The colors red and brown are combined to identify cultural features, all relief features, non-surveyed spot elevations, and elevation, such as contour lines on red-light readable maps.

c.   Blue. Identifies hydrography or water features such as lakes, swamps, rivers, and drainage.

d.   Green. Identifies vegetation with military significance, such as woods, orchards, and vineyards.

e.   Brown. Identifies all relief features and elevation, such as contours on older edition maps, and cultivated land on red-light readable maps.

f.   Red. Classifies cultural features, such as populated areas, main roads, and boundaries, on older maps.

g.   Other. Occasionally other colors may be used to show special information. These are indicated in the marginal information as a rule.

 

TOPOGRAPHIC CONTOURS

 (land elevation)

Index
number written on line

map symbol key

Intermediate
between Index lines

topographic map symbol

Supplementary
added to flat areas to show measurements

legend map symbol

Depression
such as volcano top or crater
(little dashes are called hachures )

map symbol

Cut; Fill
roadway leveling terrain

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s019.gif

 

VEGETATION

Woodland
trees at least 6feet tall

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s053.gif

Scrub
low brush

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s054.gif

Orchard
planted vegetation

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s055.gif

Vineyard
cultivated vines

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s056.gif

Mangrove
dense, tropical trees

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s057a.gif

 

SURFACE FEATURES

Levee

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s042a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s042b.gif

Sand or mud area, dunes or shifting sand

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s043a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s043b.gif

Intricate surface area

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s044a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s044b.gif

Gravel beach or glacial moraine

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s045.gif

Tailings pond

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s046.gif

 

MINES AND CAVES

Quarry or open pit mine

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s047.gif

Gravel, sand, clay, or borrow pit

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s048.gif

Mine tunnel or cave entrance

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s049.gif

Prospect; mine shaft

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s050.gif

Mine dump

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s051.gif

Mine tailings

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s052a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s052b.gif

 

GLACIERS AND PERMANENT SNOWFIELDS

Limit
blue denotes coverage

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s058.gif

Form lines
Show shape, not elevation

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s059.gif

 

BUILDINGS AND RELATED FEATURES

Building

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s100a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s100b.gif

School; church

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s101.gif

Built-up Area

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s102a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s102b.gif

Racetrack

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s103a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s103b.gif

Airport

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s104a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s104b.gif

Landing strip

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s105.gif

Well (other than water); windmill

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s106.gif

Tanks

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s107a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s107b.gif

Covered reservoir

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s108.gif

Gaging station

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s109.gif

Landmark object (feature as labeled)

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s110.gif

Campground; picnic area

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s111.gif

Cemetery: small; large

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s112.gif

 

ROADS AND RELATED FEATURES

Primary highway

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s113.gif

Secondary highway

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s114.gif

Light duty road

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s115a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s115b.gif

Unimproved road

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s116a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s116b.gif

Trail

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s117.gif

Dual highway

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s118a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s118b.gif

Dual highway with median strip

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s119a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s119b.gif

Road under construction

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s120a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s120b.gif

Underpass; overpass

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s121a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s121b.gif

Bridge

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s122a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s122b.gif

Drawbridge

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s123a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s123b.gif

Tunnel

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s124a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s124b.gif

 

RAILROADS AND RELATED FEATURES

Standard gauge single track; station

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s125.gif

Standard gauge multiple track

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s126.gif

Abandoned

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s127.gif

Under construction

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s128.gif

Narrow gauge single track

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s129.gif

Narrow gauge multiple track

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s130.gif

Railroad in street

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s131a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s131b.gif

Juxtaposition

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s132.gif

Roundhouse and turntable

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s133.gif

 

TRANSMISSION LINES AND PIPELINES

Power transmission line: pole; tower

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s134a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s134b.gif

Telephone line

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s135a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s135b.gif

Aboveground oil or gas pipeline

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s136.gif

Underground oil or gas pipeline

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s137a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s137b.gif

 

BOUNDARIES

National

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s025.gif

State or territorial

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s026.gif

County

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s027.gif

Civil township

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s028.gif

Incorporated city

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s029.gif

Park, reservation, or monument

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s030a.gif

Small Park

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s031.gif

 

LAND SURVEY SYSTEMS

U.S. Public Land Survey System

Township or range line

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s032.gif

Section Line

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s034.gif

Found section corner; found closing corner

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s036.gif

Witness corner; meander corner

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s037.gif

Other land surveys

Township or range line

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s038.gif

Section line

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s039.gif

Land grant or mining claim; monument

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s040.gif

Fence line

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s041a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s041b.gif

 

CONTROL DATA AND MONUMENTS

Horizontal control

Third order or better, permanent mark

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s002.gif

With third order or better elevation

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s003.gif

Check spot elevation

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s004.gif

Coincident with section corner

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s005.gif

Unmonumented*

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s006.gif

Vertical control

Third order or better, with tablet

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s007.gif

Third order or better, recoverable mark

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s008.gif

Bench mark found at section corner

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s009.gif

Spot elevation

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s010.gif

Boundary monument

With tablet

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s011.gif

Without tablet

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s012.gif

With number and elevation

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s013.gif

U.S. mineral or location monument

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s014.gif

 

RIVERS, LAKES, AND CANALS

Intermittent stream

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s076a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s076b.gif

Intermittent river

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s077a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s077b.gif

Disappearing stream

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s078.gif

Perennial stream

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s079.gif

Perennial river

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s080.gif

Small falls; small rapids

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s081.gif

Large falls; large rapids

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s082.gif

Masonry dam

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s083.gif

Dam with rock

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s084.gif

Dam carrying road

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s085a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s085b.gif

Perennial lake; Intermittent lake or pond

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s086a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s086c.gif

Dry lake

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s087a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s087b.gif

Narrow wash

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s088a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s088b.gif

Wide wash

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s089a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s089b.gif

Canal, flume, or aquaduct with lock

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s090.gif

Elevated aquaduct, flume or conduit

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s091.gif

Aquaduct tunnel

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s092.gif

Well or spring; spring or seep

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s093.gif

 

SUBMERGED AREAS AND BOGS

Marsh or swamp

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s094.gif

Submerged marsh or swamp

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s095.gif

Wooded marsh or swamp

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s096.gif

Submerged wooded marsh or swamp

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s097.gif

Rice field

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s098a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s098b.gif

Land subject to inundation

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s099a.gifhttp://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s099b.gif

 

MARINE SHORELINE

Approximate mean high water

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s060.gif

Indefinite or unsurveyed

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s061.gif

 

BATHYMETRIC FEATURES

(water depth)

Area exposed at mean low tide; sounding datum

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s072.gif

Channel

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s073.gif

Offshore oil or gas: well; platform

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s074.gif

Sunken rock

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s075.gif

 

BATHYMETRIC CONTOURS

Index

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s021.gif

Intermediate

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s020.gif

Supplementary

http://www.compassdude.com/i/maps/symbols/s024.gif

See USGS Brochure for complete topographic map symbol