Saturday, May 29, 2010

USGS Map Waypoints: Utah, Nevada

Perhaps you know that it is the US Geological Survey (USGS) which is tasked with the responsibility of making/keeping/standardizing geographically related "stuff" in the United States.

Yes, they are the same fellows who put up those fancy brass survey markers all around the country that we see when we are offroading. They are particularly noticeable down in the Middle Gold Butte ATV, SUV riding area.  [For a free Google Earth file of this route see: USGS Utah Feature File]

Well, "The Survey" not only keeps the markers accurate but they are the ones tasked with keeping "inventory" of the locations of "things" all around the globe. You know stuff like mines, lakes, rivers, mountains, populated places, glaciers, swamps… etc. etc. etc..

So, I've found that if you hunt real hard on the web you sometimes can find huge lists of their stuff which you can import to Excel spreadsheets — or more correctly several spreadsheets because none of them fit into just one.

In the spreadsheet format, I've found them quite useful over the past couple of years when my handheld GPS unit didn't have a listing for some feature. I just looked it up! Or to solve discrepancies in track maps that I've been trying to verify. Or to simply add waypoints for "color" on a map that I was creating for posting.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I created a new work-flow (hack) to use Excel to generate extra formatting columns, then turn the spreadsheets into rudimentary KML (Google Earth) files, which I can then hand edit in JEdit to be more readable with the Offroading Home stylesheet, and then use macro's to put them all together with their graphics. Easy huh?

I was brought up to believe that the only thing worth doing was to add to the sum of accurate information in the world.”Margaret Mead
All this to explain that as a trial run I have generated a map file which contains all 31,792 USGS known, waypoints in Utah. All 1,575 churches, 4,255 Populated Places, 2,538 Springs, 2,177 Summits and 5,911 Valleys in the 29 counties.

This one is a keeper – for reference.  I don't know if you have noticed that Google Earth often is frustratingly awkward in showing names and boundaries. I mean that the names don't often show up until you are so close that seeing it is meaningless without surrounding context. Then when you zoom out to get the context the border or name disappears.

Well, load this file whenever you have a question about somethings' location in Utah, find it in the index, click and you'll zoom right to it. And it shows up no matter how far out or close in you are.  The only problem might be the enormous content; but, you can always un-click the boxes next to the things that you don't want to see and turn them off.

The total file is enormous so what you actually download is the Master Template containing background data, styling, folders for northern and southern Utah and network links for sub-files of each of the 29 counties.

It will zoom to the state then you can click the box by the county you want and it will download the sub-file for that area. You can open all of them if you want for fun, just don't expect Google Earth to be too happy under the heavy saddle.

Oh, and did I mention that I also did one for Clark County in Nevada as well to avoid all the screaming I'd get otherwise for leaving my bud's out.  I nearly wore out the computer producing this file so I thought I'd take a little break for a spell before I tackle the rest of the state.  Also I want to know if anyone finds this useful.

Leave a comment if you'd like me to move any particular state or county up the priority list for completion. Also, mention how you have used the information and if it's worth producing more.


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