Topographic Maps

I live in a small lake town (there’s like 30 of them!) Any idea where I can purchase high quality topographic map files? I’ve searched online, but only found a few historic maps. Figured I would check here before I start re-drawing by hand.


Topographic maps are usually easier to source, but sounds like you’re looking for bathymetric maps due to the lakes. I have traced the lake levels manually, as I wasn’t able to find data files for this. Topographic map data is much more widely available.


It seems that most people use the freely available data and tools and roll their own. That can be a steep learning curve. Some people have mastered it and are using it to leverage a business.

I should do that. But until then, perhaps this topic can give you some hints and an expert. I’ll search through some old topics for other references for you.


I’m wanting to stay simple and small, like the trail maps. I have no problem re-drawing the layers, it’s just going to be time consuming. I’ll keep looking while I start to draw my first local lake.

They might have the detail you are looking for in this. I have lived next to a 75,000 acre lake for over five years. One of my dream projects, but I either sink time into learning the digital tools or sink time into hand tracing.


Long ago I did a CGI animation of Glacier Bay national park, showing how it looked before the glaciers retreated, with a really nifty animated retreat of the glaciers. I used freely available USGS data, and there was tons of both topographic and bathymetric data for pretty much the entire continental US. And this was probably 30 years ago. The datasets have to have gotten better.

Go here:


Actually, go here:


Free vector pdf topos are available at the USGS website. They’re neatly organized by layer so it’s easy, if a little time consuming, to get rid of data you don’t want. At least that’s opening the PDFs in Illustrator, I have no idea how Inkscape would interpret them.


Moving this thread to 'Everything Else"

Well isn’t it handy that this has come up before…

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