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United States Geologic Service (USGS) Topographic Map Key (Legend)

Interpreting the colored lines, areas and other symbols is necessary in using the topographic maps.  The USGS Topographic Maps use symbols or colors to represent features, and this Topographic Map Key explains what they mean.

Contour lines are distinctive to the topographic maps but there are other features shown on the maps including buildings, water and vegetation.  In fact, there are nearly 200 features represented by unique symbols and separated into color groups.  There are five (5) color plates which were used in the film-based reproduction process. The five (5) plates include vegetation (green), water (blue), public land survey lines and densely built-up areas (red), roads and buildings (black), contours and other elevation features (brown). Although, no longer used the color (purple) found on the historical topo maps represent feature changes.

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black plate

The color black is represented in a number of features including: boundaries, buildings, bridges, viaducts, tunnels, crossings, control data, monuments, dams, piers, break waters, foreshore and offshore features, mine symbols, roads, highways, trails, railroads, drive-in theatres, oil sumps, telephone lines, pipelines and wells.

Boundaries

Civil township, town, district, precinct, barrio
Civil township, town, district, precinct, barrio

Line weight .007”. Dash .17”. Space .033”.

County, parish, municipio, judicial division
County, parish, municipio, judicial division

Line weight .01”. Dash .25” and .07”. Space .033”.

Incorporated city, village, town, borough, or hamlet
Incorporated city, village, town, borough, or hamlet

Line weight .007”. Dash .08” and .04”. Space .02”.

Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Boundary in road
Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Boundary in road

Boundary line weight .002”.

Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Cemetery
Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Cemetery

Space permitting omit cross and place name or label
inside boundary.

Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Cemetery
Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Cemetery

If larger than .10” square add cross and omit label. If
named show name and cross. Cross bar length 2/3 of
upright, placed 1/3 upright length from top.

Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Small cemetery
Miscellaneous Boundary Data - Small cemetery

Omit cross if cemetery is .10” square or less. Add label if
unnamed. Show cross and omit outline if one or two
graves. Line weight .003”. Upright length .06”. Cross bar
.04”, .02” from top.

National
National

Line weight .016”. Dash .25” and .07”. space .033”.

National or state reservation, park, or monument; very large city, county, or private park
National or state reservation, park, or monument; very large city, county, or private park

Line weight .007”. Dash .25”. Space .10”. Dot .01”.

Small park, cemetery, etc
Small park, cemetery, etc

Line weight .003”. Dash .04”. Space .02”.

State or territory
State or territory

Line weight .012”. Dash .25” and .07”. Space .033”.

Bridges/Viaducts/Tunnels/Crossings

Bridge: multiple track railroad
Bridge: multiple track railroad

Same as single track except cross-tick length .05”.

Bridge over stream, road, railroad
Bridge over stream, road, railroad
Bridge: road
Bridge: road

Tick weight .003”. Wing-tick length .023”. Angle 45”.

Bridge: single track railroad
Bridge: single track railroad

Tick weight .003”. Cross-tick length .035”. Wing-tick length .023”. Angle 45º. No crossties on bridges less than .40” in length and none closer than .20” to bridge ticks.

Drawbridge: railroad
Drawbridge: railroad

Line weight .003”. Circle .045” overall.

Drawbridge: road
Drawbridge: road

Line weight .003”. Circle .045” overall.

Ferry
Ferry

Line weight .003”. Dash .04”. Space .02”. Label.

Ferry
Ferry

Label placement for narrow water area.

Footbridge
Footbridge

Line weight .005”. Wing-tick weight .003”, length .023”. Angle 45º.

Ford: road
Ford: road

Line weight .003”. Dash .04”. Space .02”. Overall
width same as road width. Label.

Ford: road or trail
Ford: road or trail

Label placement for narrow stream.

Ford: trail
Ford: trail

Line weight .005”. Dash .04”. Space .02”. Label.

Tunnel: railroad
Tunnel: railroad

Line weight .003”. Overall width .017”. Dash .04”. Space .02”. Cross-tick length .017”. Wing-tick length .023”. Angle 45º.

Tunnel: road
Tunnel: road

Line weight .003”. Dash .04”. Space .02”. Wing-tick length .023”. Angle 45º.

Underpass, overpass
Underpass, overpass

Buildings

Building placement
Building placement

Center of symbol represents center of feature. If
adjacent to exaggerated road symbol hold displacement
to minimum.

Church
Church

.025” x .025”. Cross length .04”. Cross bar .025”,
.017” from top. Line weight .003”.

Church in congested areas
Church in congested areas

.02” x .02”. Cross length .033”. Cross bar .02”, .017”
from top. Line weight .003”.

Large buildings
Large buildings

Show solid to scale. Use for buildings greater than .05”
in longest axis.

Large school or church
Large school or church

To scale if larger than .05” in longest axis.

Miscellaneous Structures - Cliff dwelling
Miscellaneous Structures - Cliff dwelling

Line weight .003”. Rectangle .017” x .03”. Base .05”.
Label.

Miscellaneous Structures - Covered reservoir
Miscellaneous Structures - Covered reservoir

Hatch SW-NE with .002” lines spaced .02” center to
center. Blue tint fill for water, omit tint for other liquids.
Outline weight .003”. Label.

Miscellaneous Structures - Gaging station
Miscellaneous Structures - Gaging station

Line weight .003”. Circle .05” overall. Divide in 4 equal
sections. Label. Add (site) and station number for
former tidal gaging stations in Florida.

Miscellaneous Structures - Located or landmark object
Miscellaneous Structures - Located or landmark object

Line weight .003”. Circle .04” overall. Dot .006”.
Label.

Miscellaneous Structures - Masonry swimming pool, reservoir, or fish hatchery
Miscellaneous Structures - Masonry swimming pool, reservoir, or fish hatchery

Line weight .003”. Blue tint fill for water, omit tint for
other liquids. Label.

Miscellaneous Structures - Pumping station
Miscellaneous Structures - Pumping station

Show to scale. Minimum size .02” x .02”. Label.

Miscellaneous Structures - Ruins
Miscellaneous Structures - Ruins

Line weight .003”. Dash .04”. Space .02”. Decrease
length of dash and space if less than .10” x .10”. Use
solid outline if less than .05” x .05”. Label.

Miscellaneous Structures - Sewage disposal or filtration plant
Miscellaneous Structures - Sewage disposal or filtration plant

Line weight .003”.
Label.

Miscellaneous Structures - Snowshed
Miscellaneous Structures - Snowshed

Width same as crosstie.

Miscellaneous Structures - Tanks: oil, gas, water, etc
Miscellaneous Structures - Tanks: oil, gas, water, etc

Circle .03” minimum. Label water tanks only. Show
solid to scale.

Miscellaneous Structures - Windmill
Miscellaneous Structures - Windmill

Line weight .003”. Triangle .05” in height, angles 30º,
75º, 75º. Arms .045”, angles 70º and 110º. Center
cross on feature. Label generator only.

School
School

.025” x .025”. Flagpole length .04”, weight .003”.
Flag .02” x .03”.

School, college, etc
School, college, etc

When more than one building, show flag on
administration building if known, if not known show on
most prominent building.

School in congested areas
School in congested areas

.02” x .02”. Flagpole length .033”, weight .003”. Flag
.017” x .025”.

School or church placement
School or church placement

Flag or cross to clear other culture.

Small buildings
Small buildings

Show solid 02” x .02”. Use for buildings less than .05”
in longest axis.

Small buildings in congested areas
Small buildings in congested areas

Minimum .017” x .017”.

Control Data-Monuments

Bench mark coincident with found section corner
Bench mark coincident with found section corner

Show section corner on red plate.

Boundary monument with number and elevation
Boundary monument with number and elevation
Boundary monument without tablet, with or without geodetic position, elev. third order or better. Grant monument on red
Boundary monument without tablet, with or without geodetic position, elev. third order or better. Grant monument on red
Boundary monument with tablet, with or without geodetic position, elev. third order or better. Grant monument on red
Boundary monument with tablet, with or without geodetic position, elev. third order or better. Grant monument on red

Line weight .003”. Sides .04”. Dot .006”.

Horizontal control station, checked spot elevation
Horizontal control station, checked spot elevation
Horizontal control station coincident with section corner
Horizontal control station coincident with section corner

Show triangle. Omit corner. Space .033”.

Horizontal control station, elevation third order or better
Horizontal control station, elevation third order or better
Horizontal control station, third order or better, permanent mark
Horizontal control station, third order or better, permanent mark

Line weight .003”. Sides of triangle .07”. Dot .006”.

Horizontal control station, vertical angle elevation
Horizontal control station, vertical angle elevation
Other control points. Object may or may not have geodetic position
Other control points. Object may or may not have geodetic position
Reference monument
Reference monument

Line weight .003”. Sides .04”. Dot .006”.

Spot elevation
Spot elevation

Line weight .002”. Length .06”. Angles 90º.

U.S. mineral or location monument
U.S. mineral or location monument

Base .06”. Height at center .04”.

Vertical control station marked with tablet, elev. third order or better
Vertical control station marked with tablet, elev. third order or better

Line weight .003”. Length .08”. Angle 90º.

Vertical station, recoverable mark-no tablet, elev. third order or better
Vertical station, recoverable mark-no tablet, elev. third order or better

Dams/Piers/Breakwaters etc.

Breakwater, jetty, pier, wharf
Breakwater, jetty, pier, wharf

Not exceeding .02” in width. Line weight .007”. Tint
and shoreline not broken.

Breakwater, pier, wharf, causeway
Breakwater, pier, wharf, causeway

Exceeding .02” in width. Show to scale. Line weight .003”. If it carries road use proper road symbol. Break tint and shoreline.

Canal lock gate, double line stream
Canal lock gate, double line stream

Line weight .007”. Tick to project .02” beyond canal. Angles 45º. Label.

Canal lock or sluice gate
Canal lock or sluice gate

Line weight .007”. Tick length .023”. Angles 45º. Point upstream. Label.

Covered pier or wharf
Covered pier or wharf

Break tint and shoreline.

 Dam carrying road
Dam carrying road

Increase weight of road casing by .004”. Break tint.

Dam with lock
Dam with lock

Weight of dam line .012”, lock .003”. Lock .075” x .033”. Angles 45º. Point upstream. Show to scale if larger than symbol.

Drydock
Drydock

Line weight .003”. Tick weight .007”, length .023”.
Angles 45º. Break shoreline, fill with blue tint. Label.

Large masonry dam
Large masonry dam

Line weight .012”. If width of dam exceeds .02” show dam outline to scale and fill with radiating lines. Dam line weight .007”, other lines .003”. Drop contours at black dam line.

Seawall
Seawall

Line weight .007”. Break shoreline. Label.

Small masonry dam
Small masonry dam

Line weight .012”. Line weight .007” for dam less than .20” in length.

Foreshore-Offshore Features

Area limits
Area limits

Line weight .003”. Dash .10”. Space .02”. Label.

Danger curve
Danger curve

Line weight .002”. Dash .015”. Space .01”. Label.

Exposed wreck
Exposed wreck

Line weight .003”. Base .12” overall. Circle .025”.
Angle lines .10” and .037”. Cross .05” x .03”.
USGS 24.

Exposed wreckage or foul ground
Exposed wreckage or foul ground

Outline dots .008”. Space .017”. Label.

Foreshore flat
Foreshore flat

USGS 17. Label sand, gravel, mud, etc. If unknown
label Tidal Flat.

Group of rocks bare or awash
Group of rocks bare or awash

Line weight .003”. Length .05”. Angles 60º with outline dots .008”, spaced .017”.

Masts exposed on sunken wreck.
Masts exposed on sunken wreck.

Line weight .003”. Length .08”. Cross ticks .033” and
.05”. Space .017”. Dots .008”. Space .017”. Label.
USGS 24.

Pile, dolphin, stump, or snag
Pile, dolphin, stump, or snag

Line weight .003”. Circle .033” overall. Label. Use
outline and label when too congested. Dots .008”.
Space .017”.

Rock bare or awash
Rock bare or awash

Line weight .003”. Length .05”. Angles 60º.

Rock bare or awash dangerous to navigation
Rock bare or awash dangerous to navigation

Length .05”. Angles 60º. Dots .008”. Space .017”.

Rock or coral reef
Rock or coral reef

Limits as shown. Fill USGS 17. Label.

Shoal
Shoal

Where depth curves do not show extent of shoal area
use outline. Dots .008”. Space .017”. Label.

Small rock or coral reef
Small rock or coral reef

USGS 17. Label.

Sunken rock
Sunken rock

Line weight .003”. Length .05”. Angle 90º. USGS 24.

Sunken wreck
Sunken wreck

Line weight .003”. Length .08”. Cross ticks .033” and
.05”. Space .017”. USGS 24.

Mine Symbols

Gravel, sand, clay, or borrow pit
Gravel, sand, clay, or borrow pit

Line weight .003”. Length overall .08”. Arcs .04”.
Triangles .025” x .025” x .03”. Label. If opening is
larger than symbol and not adequately shown by
contours add hachure outline on brown

Mine shaft
Mine shaft

Line weight .003”. Square .04” x .04”.

Mine tunnel entrance or cave
Mine tunnel entrance or cave

Line weight .003”. Arm length .033”, shaft .067”.
Angle 90º. Place intersection of arms at portal with
shaft pointing up slope. Orient shaft perpendicular to
the contours. Label.

Open pit mine or quarry
Open pit mine or quarry
Prospect
Prospect

Line weight .003”. Length .067”. Angles 60º and
120º.

Miscellaneous

Boardwalk
Boardwalk

Overall width to scale with minimum .02”. Line weight
.033”. Label.

Campground
Campground

Line weight .005”. Base .04”. Overall height .08”.
Label.

Coke ovens
Coke ovens

Overall width .02”. Casing line weight .003”. Fill dash
.03”, space .02”. Label.

Corral
Corral

Line weight .003”. Dash .04”. Space .02”. Label.

Drive-in theater
Drive-in theater

Outline area with Line weight .003”. Dash .04”. Space .02”.. Show structures. Label as Drive-in Theater. Screen line weight .007”.

Oil sump or sludge pit
Oil sump or sludge pit

Line weight .003” for outline if constructed of materials
other than earth. If earth use dots .008”. Space .017”.
Fill with sand, dry lake symbology. Label as Oil Sumps

Open oil reservoir
Open oil reservoir

Outline weight .003”. Fill dots .006”, spaced .014”
center to center. Label as Oil Reservoir.

Picnic area
Picnic area

Line weight .005”. Top length .05”. Leg length .025”.
Leg angle 60º from top. Label as Picnic Area

Other Culture Symbols

Gas or oil pipeline aboveground
Gas or oil pipeline aboveground

Line weight .005”. Label as Aboveground Pipeline.

Gas or oil pipeline underground
Gas or oil pipeline underground

Line weight .005”. Dash .10”. Space .02”. Label as Pipeline.

Landmark lines: ski lift, incline railway, tramway, etc
Landmark lines: ski lift, incline railway, tramway, etc

Line weight .005”. Dash .10”. Space .02”. Label ski lift, incline railway, tramway, etc.

Power transmission line
Power transmission line

Line weight .003”. Dash .033”. Space .017”. Dot
.017”. Dots placed at angle points.

Prominent wall
Prominent wall

Show to scale. Show outline if width exceeds .017”.
Line weight .003”. Label as Wall.

Telephone line
Telephone line

Line weight .005”. Dash .10”. Space .02”. Label as Telephone.

Wall
Wall

Line weight .007”. Wall not exceeding .017”. Label as Wall.

Wells (excluding water)
Wells (excluding water)

Line weight .003”. Circle .033” overall. Label as Well.

Railroads

Miscellaneous - Carline
Miscellaneous - Carline

Line weight .005”. Tie weight .003”, length .04”, spaced .10” center to center. Not shown in urban areas or in streets or roads.

Miscellaneous - Dismantled railroad or carline
Miscellaneous - Dismantled railroad or carline

Line weight .005”. Dash .05”. Space .02”. Show if
landmark feature or used as trail. Label Old Railroad Grade.

Miscellaneous - Roundhouse and turntable
Miscellaneous - Roundhouse and turntable

Line weight .003”. Show to scale. Minimum circle .06” overall. 

Miscellaneous - Station
Miscellaneous - Station

.02” x .04”. Use symbol when no siding, building, or other identifying feature.

Miscellaneous - Turntable
Miscellaneous - Turntable

Line weight .003”. Show to scale. Minimum circle .06” overall. Cross line at 45º angle.

Narrow Gauge - Multiple Track
Narrow Gauge - Multiple Track

Line weight .005”. Tie weight .003”, length .02”, spaced .20” center to center of double tie. Double tie .02” overall width.

Narrow Gauge - Single Track
Narrow Gauge - Single Track

Line weight .005”. Tie weight .003”, length .02”, spaced .20” center to center.

U. S. Standard Gauge - Juxtaposition
U. S. Standard Gauge - Juxtaposition

Alternate ties, spaced .20” center to center. Minimum space between tracks .011”. Line weight for single tracks .005”, multiple tracks .003”

U. S. Standard Gauge - Multiple main line track
U. S. Standard Gauge - Multiple main line track

Overall width .017”. Line weight .003”. Tie length .052”, spaced .20” center to center. If more than two tracks label, with double crosstie at point of change. Double crosstie .017” overall width.

U. S. Standard Gauge - Railroad in street
U. S. Standard Gauge - Railroad in street

Ties spaced .20” center to center. Label if narrow gauge. Tie weight .003”.

U. S. Standard Gauge - Sidings
U. S. Standard Gauge - Sidings

Line weight .003”. Scribe to scale with minimum space between tracks .011”. Ties spaced .20” center to center, length .04” for single track.

U. S. Standard Gauge - Single track
U. S. Standard Gauge - Single track

Line weight .005”. Tie weight .003”, length .04”, spaced .20” center

U. S. Standard Gauge - Yards
U. S. Standard Gauge - Yards

Line weight .003”. Space between tracks .011”. Ties spaced .20” center to center, maximum length to touch 6 tracks.

 

Roads, Highways and related features

Class 1—Primary highway, hard surface, two or three lanes
Class 1—Primary highway, hard surface, two or three lanes

Overall width to scale with minimum .02”. Line weight .003”. See symbol 513 for red fill. Label if 3 lanes.

Cloverleaf
Cloverleaf

Minimum overall width .10”. Show to scale if size exceeds symbol.

Dead end road
Dead end road

Use only when there may be a question as to whether road ends.

Dual highway, overall width 100’ or less
Dual highway, overall width 100’ or less

Overall width to scale with minimum .037”. Line weight .003”

Dual highway, overall width over 100’
Dual highway, overall width over 100’

Treat each side as individual road. Width of dividing strip (space) to scale.

Light duty, hard or improved
Light duty, hard or improved

Overall width .02”. Line weight .003”

Primary highway, hard surface, four or more lanes
Primary highway, hard surface, four or more lanes

Class 1 road. Line weight to fit road casing. Overall width to scale with minimum .02”. Line weight .003”

Private road
Private road

Show if 500’ or more in length. Classify according to construction. Label only when necessary to clarify as to availability for public use.

Secondary highway, hard surface, four or more lanes.
Secondary highway, hard surface, four or more lanes.

Class 2 road. Line weight to fit road casing. Dash .12”. Space .12”. Overall width to scale with minimum .02”. Line weight .003”.

Secondary highway, hard surface, two or three lanes
Secondary highway, hard surface, two or three lanes

Overall width to scale with minimum .02”. Line weight .003”. Line weight to fit road casing. Dash .12”. Space .12”. for red fill. Label if 3 lanes.

Streets in urban areas
Streets in urban areas

Overall width to scale with minimum .02”. Line weight .003”

Toll road—Tollgate
Toll road—Tollgate

Tick line weight .007”. Tick to project .02” beyond road casing. Label.

Traffic circle
Traffic circle

Road width of circle that of widest road entering circle. Show to scale if size exceeds symbol. Minimum space in circle .04”.

Trails: important foot, bridle, pack, marked, and named
Trails: important foot, bridle, pack, marked, and named

Line weight .005”. Dash .05”. Space .02”. Label when necessary to clarify. When used primarily for fourwheel-drive vehicles, label, “4WD”.

Under construction-Classification known (Class 1 and 2 only)
Under construction-Classification known (Class 1 and 2 only)

Overall width to scale with minimum .02”. Line weight .003”. Dash .10”. Space .02”. Red fill consistent with road classification. Label Under Construction

Unimproved dirt
Unimproved dirt

Overall width .02”. Line weight .003”. Dash .05”. Space .02”.

blue plate

Areas on topographic maps in blue represent water including aqueducts, canals, streams, lakes, ponds and other hydrographic features.

Canals/Aqueducts

Aqueduct tunnel
Aqueduct tunnel

Line weight .003”. Overall width .017”. Dash .04”.
Space .02”. Cross-tick length .017”. Wing-tick length
.023”. Angle 45º.

Canal, flume, aqueduct
Canal, flume, aqueduct

Line weight .005”. Width exceeding 50’ at 24 000.
Blue tint fill. Label flumes and aqueducts.

Canal, flume, aqueduct, or perennial ditch
Canal, flume, aqueduct, or perennial ditch

Line weight .005”. Width not exceeding 50’ at
24 000. Label flumes and aqueducts.

Elevated aqueduct, conduit, flume
Elevated aqueduct, conduit, flume

Tick weight .003”. Length .023”. Angle 45º. Label
ELEVATED when long.

Intermittent canal
Intermittent canal

Line weight .005”. Dash .17”. Space .12”. Dots .008”.

Intermittent ditch
Intermittent ditch

Line weight .005”. Dash .17”. Space .12”. Dots .008”.

Navigable canal
Navigable canal

Label NAVIGABLE CANAL when
necessary to clarify.

Underground flume, penstock, aqueduct, or similar feature
Underground flume, penstock, aqueduct, or similar feature

Line weight .005”. Dash .05”. Space .02”. Label.

Lakes/Ponds

Dry lake or pond
Dry lake or pond

Line weight .005”. Dash .07”. Space .02”.

Indefinite or unsurveyed shoreline
Indefinite or unsurveyed shoreline

Line weight .005”. Dash .07”. Space .02”. Blue tint fill.

Intermittent lake or pond
Intermittent lake or pond

Line weight .005”. Dash .07”. Space .02”.

Perennial lake or pond
Perennial lake or pond

Line weight .005”. Blue tint fill 13%, 120-line at 105º.

Perennial salt lake or pond
Perennial salt lake or pond

Line weight .005”. Blue tint fill. Label.

Reservoir natural shoreline
Reservoir natural shoreline

Line weight .005”. Blue tint fill. Label Reservoir.

Miscellaneous