Forum: Misc. GPS Equipment Information
Topic: Yet another USGS map site...
started by: jfitzpat

Posted by jfitzpat on Dec. 02 2001,12:01 am
Yes, I know, web sites like and will let you look at USGS Image and Topo maps, but I got frustrated trying to make images for our "adventure database" (see an earlier post).
The sites I know about either don't let you grab the whole map as one image, or don't give you much flexibility in placing markers (or worse, the markers move around!). So, I whipped together a little server side thingy. You can build photo image and topo maps directly from your GPS waypoints ( < lost outdoors > ), but that requires you to download an activeX control (to access the serial port).

If you just want to punch in coordinates and get a map, you can go to (Or pick "Map Maker" from the main page). That is all server side and should work with almost any browser.

It is still a little buggy, especially at some tricky conversions, but I spot checked it with some caches from Buxley's maps, and a lot of airports from

Let me know what you think. I'd espcially be interested in how accurately it places your own caches (since you'll have some idea if the topo, or photo is right!) One thing, if you do save the maps off to disk, please leave the USGS logo on them intact.

I was going to do a track->map utility (tracks direct from my GPS), since I want to show some faint climber trails on USGS image maps, but if something like that is already on the web, please let me know. I'd rather use it than write it!


P.S. I said it was buggy! Please do not trust your outdoor navigational needs to my hastily written projection conversion routines!

Posted by Gimpy on Dec. 02 2001,8:31 pm
Welcome, jfitzpat. Cool program. I found the maps on a few of my tries a little outdated, but a set-up that I would use. Thanks.
Posted by jfitzpat on Dec. 02 2001,9:30 pm
Alas, the USGS NAPP data is not always the most current (the most recent photo over my house is 7 years old), but it is the only database I currently have access to.

I just found a nifty free program called USAPhotoMaps (, that is similar.  It lift's 200x200 pixel tiles from  It doesn't combine the tiles into a composite image, but it will plot tracks, which is nice.  Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the tiles are the same USGS NAPP data.

MapQuest seems to have newer images of some areas, but I haven't researched it yet.  If anyone has leads on online cart. imagery databases, please pass them on.

In the mean time, enjoy.  After I get some of our 'adventures' posted, I may steal some of Doug Cox's good ideas and incorporate them into the site (hey, what can he say, both his program and our site are free!).

Thanks for the feedback.

Posted by jfitzpat on Dec. 04 2001,5:45 pm
Thanks again to all of you who have written me. If my responses have been terse, sorry, the volume of mail has been a little overwhelming... So far, a lot of nice comments, but 3 complaints:

1. Old photos
2. Picture doesn't display with AOL
3. No spaces in marker names with Netscape versions earlier than version 6.

#1, Sorry, I've looked around and haven't found newer photos I can legally access. The GlobeXplorer stuff is new (see MapQuest), and I figured out how to access it (if you view source on MapQuest you will see that map requirements are passed in an
"encrypt" URL variable that looks like base64 encoding - but the scheme is more subtle).

But, the resultant images are clearly copyrighted and GlobXplorer spells out terms and conditions on its page. I wrote email to their sales departement, but I doubt that they will let me serve up for free what they presumably charge AOL and MapQuest for.

#2. The problem is that AOL blocks access to non named servers. I put in a DNS change to give the server I'm running my map builder on a name, so this problem should be fixed sometime tomorrow.

#3. This is fixed, Netscape 4.x is a lot pickier about the URLs submitted for imagery than newer browsers. I know fully URL encode the string.

Thanks again for all your mail and comments.


Posted by Quinn on Dec. 04 2001,8:26 pm
I have looked at the program that you have on your site. Pretty neat set-up with much to offer. You could even go several different directions in the use of this. Have you put any thought to other ideas to make this multi use?
Posted by jfitzpat on Dec. 05 2001,12:21 pm
Really, I just hike and climb (on a whim I tried my first cache search yesterday morning early, nice hike, but next time I'll try something harder).  After an epic lost-no-water-thank-God-we-brought-headlights day trip, some friends and I got the original idea for the site.

As we've put the tools together for the site (build maps for the database, etc.), we've just put them out for anyone to use.  We'd love to hear ideas on how to make the stuff more useful for others.  It really is just for fun.

Thanks for the feedback.

Posted by jfitzpat on Dec. 06 2001,5:15 pm
OK - You have written (some of you repeatedly!) so I made some changes to the site:

Change #1: You can enter map/marker coordinates in degrees ("34.123"), degrees and minutes ("34 12.23"), or degrees minutes and seconds ("34 12 16.3"). N and W are assumed since the maps are from USGS data.

Change #2: You can click on the map to get coordinates (it automatically fills in Lat and Long for the next marker). IE, you click on the image to get coordinates, you still have to click on "Add Marker" to put a dot on the map.

Change #3: You can click a hyperlink near the top of the page and download all the markers currently on the map as waypoints directly to your GPS.

So, in theory, you can enter the cache location, take a good look at the image and/or topo, click on some likely spots on the trail for waypoints, download all the coordinates to your GPS unit, print a copy to take with you, and email the image to a friend so he/she can meet you...


Again, It is under construction and I have a day job, so be-forewarned! It is undoubtedly buggy.

But Enjoy.


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