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How to read a Topographic Map . By: Shauna Lilienthal . /. Table of Contents. Introduction What is a topographic map Contour and Isolines Scale Symbols The map of Mora Reading the scale Reading symbols

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how to read a topographic map

How to read a Topographic Map




table of contents
Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • What is a topographic map
    • Contour and Isolines
    • Scale
    • Symbols

The map of Mora

    • Reading the scale
    • Reading symbols
  • Township and Range
    • What is township and range
    • Visual of township and range
    • Using township and range
what this power point is about
What this power point is about:
  • We will be going through three main parts.
  • The first part will be, “what is a topographic map?” We will explore the big picture as well as different things to remember about a topographic map.
  • The second part will be the map of Mora. When we know what a map is, we will point out specific things on the map of Mora.
  • Finally, we will explore township and range and locate specific places on the map of Mora.
what is a topographic map
What is a topographic map?

A topographic map is a zoomed up area. It is created by isolines showing the earth’s elevation. Contour lines are line points above sea level.

Here is a closer look at the same map. The lines shown are contour lines. Down at the bottom is a scale, showing how the lines are represented. On this map, the contour interval (space between the lines) is 20 feet. Each line represents a change in elevation.

A general thing to remember is that you can tell how steep a place is by looking at the contour lines. Lines close together resemble somewhere that is steep. Lines farther apart resemble places that are not so steep. This arrow is pointing out a place where there is quite a bit of space, resembling that that place is not so steep.

  • In the following slides are symbols that you will most likely see on topographic maps. Whenever the lines are represented in this manner, means that is how the earth elevations goes.
This symbol represents a hill. The smallest circle is the peak of a hill.

This is part of a depression. Circles with slashes in it is the symbol. These are lower levels of elevation.

Another thing to remember, is that whenever a line crosses the path of a river, it automatically points upward. That shows where valley’s are at. It makes a “V”.


To find out more symbols, you can find “symbol pages”. Pages with symbols will differ, depending on where you find them at. The previous page was an example of what some of them look like.


Taking what we learned, we will look at specific locations in the map of Mora. I will point out different areas, following symbols, lines, ect.







Another thing still yet to mention is Township and range. The purpose of township and range is to give land a government setting and a means to sell land from it. The system by which it is measured by is from the United States Public Land Survey. It is divided by the latitude and longitude line. A square, 6X6 miles long, equals one township. The range is measured from east to west.


Below is a drawn example of how a township is measured.


T 1 N


T 1 S

The little orange boxes would keep adding up. You would keep counting them by T1N, T2N, ect. Then you go from side to side to figure out the range. The blue box would be T1S RSE.


To make it even more specific, each square is cut off into 1/4ths. Then you add direction to them. NW ¼. That would mean it is the top, left corner.


To describe a township, you start from the littlest factors and mount up to the biggest factors.

EXAMPLE : NW ¼, Section 32, T15, R21W

However, if you wish to find one on a topographic map, you would follow them backwards: from the largest to the smallest.


On the corners of topographic maps are little red numbers and letters showing the township range that topographic maps cover.





Within the squares are little red numbers representing the numbers as you move from square to square. If the numbers are in sequence, 34,35,36, ect That means it is the same townships. When the numbers jump you have moved to a new range.





We will follow the factors from big to little to see what lies at

SW ¼, S 36, T41N, R24W on the Mora map.

Here are the ranges. We want R. 24W


Once you find section 36, mentally square the section off into four even corners. Then we would look to the South-West ¼. We have found Hillman Baptist Church!


Bibliography :

Media –

Music –

McCreery, Scotty, Water Tower Town. Clear as Day.

Interscope records, 2011.

Information :

Everything written was learned from Professor Knapp’s Physical Geography