3 Free Mapping Sites Used by Foresters

Aerial Photos and Maps on Google and USGS

I've found that you do not have to pay a lot of money to find aerial photos and topographical maps of forests in the United States. The increased availability of new satellite photography of the land and the most current topographical maps are now found free on the Internet.

Google Earth, USGS Store - Map Locator Downloader and Google Maps are sites that make my life easier. This technology was not available twenty years ago and certainly not free.

I encourage you to use and support these companies. I use their free tools on nearly every forest I am visiting or working in.

Google Earth

Pine and Ag Land, Alabama.

Google Earth offers a free upload of a very powerful program. It will let you look, via current aerial photos, at nearly any spot on planet Earth. These satellite photos are frequently updated and the quality is at least tolerable in rural areas and extremely good in urban settings.

I would never have believed I could get access to this kind of imagery for free even ten years ago. The Internet and Google.com makes it happen by tapping into publicly owned sources of images and maps and distributing them as images. You need Google Earth if you work or play in the forest.

USGS Store - Topographic Map Locator

Elevation lines and type color. dansdepot.com/USGS

The United States Geological Survey makes their 7.5, 15 and 30 minute topographic map series available for free download as an Adobe Reader PDF file. All you do is search for a place name or USGS map name and the topo map will appear in the locator's left-hand display.

Select the spot you want to map, "Mark Point", click on the mark point icon and you have the available maps. Select the map you want to download and it will create a zip file of the map. Unzip the file and you have a working, printable color topo map of your area in PDF format. You need the WinZip and Adobe PDF software.

Google Map

Again Google shines in the area of land mapping with their Google Map site. In addition to, street views, traffic maps, and satellite photography, Google offers a 3-D terrain feature that shows land in green-shaded relief based on topographic measurements. All maps are printable.