Are you a hiker, tracker, or hunter? If so, you've probably used the United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps in your outdoor activities.
They are nice, big maps showing lots of topographical detail, physical characteristics of the land, and the names of roads and communities and bodies of water. Sometimes they're called "topo maps," "7.5 minute maps" or "7.5 minute quadrangles" (because they show 7.5 minutes of lattitude/longitude). You can visit Central Library's map room (on the third floor) and consult the library's collection of USGS maps for the western states. If you want your own copy, you can usually buy them in outdoor-oriented sporting goods stores.
But did you know that the entire collection of USGS maps, for the whole country, are now available free online? Here's how to get to the USGS topo maps online:
This tool allows you to find maps with a simple search for a place name. For example, if you are looking for maps of the area near Waldport on the Oregon Coast, just type waldport into the search box and click the "Go" button.
Now you'll see a map of the Waldport area. The map has a grid superimposed on it, with the names of the different USGS maps in each square of the grid. And, there is a red marker in the part of the grid marked "Waldport." Click on this marker and a little popup shows the maps that are available for that spot.
(If the red marker isn't in quite the right part of the map, click on the map in the spot you want and you'll get a new marker, which will pop up a list of maps for that area.)
To download a nice, high-definition pdf of the map you want, just click on the link that shows the file size. (In the case of the 2011 Waldport 7.5 minute map, the link says "18.1 MB.")
You'll see other maps in the popup list -- older maps and maps that cover a larger area. And there is usually a link to related maps that focus on topics like mineral resources, elevation, hazards, etc.
Questions? Ask the Librarian.
Have fun browsing and downloading maps from the USGS, and share your observations in the comments!