Topographic Map - Scale
By Blake Miller
Dictionary.com defines map scale as:
“A ratio which compares a measurement on a map to the actual distance between locations identified on the map.”
A topographic (topo) map’s scale information is located at the bottom center of the map. Other maps will generally have scale information in the large map key that outlines many of the features and data printed on the map.
The map scale for a United States Geologic Survey (USGS) 7.5 topo minute map is highlighted below.
Think of scale as your “zoom setting” as you would on a camera. The smaller and tighter the scale the more detail you will find. The topo above has a scale of 1:24,000. A map of a national forest may have a scale of 1:126,000. The forest map will not have the detail but will cover considerably more area.