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Frankly, nothing beats paper maps for:
- image quality (scanned map images are usually as small and low-resolution as possible so they will download faster),
- size (most people don't have computer monitors as big as the average map),
- and coverage (there are still many paper maps that can't be found online).
But sometimes only a digital image, or digital data, will do. Here is a list of websites to help get you started. See also Maps by Type.
Early Washington Maps: A Digital Collection
This site is a collaboration between Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections at the Washington State University and Special Collections and the Map Collection at the University of Washington Libraries. Spanning three hundred years, the site includes maps of explorers such as Lewis and Clark, documents ownership struggles and boundary disputes in the region, shows the development of one of the last frontiers on the continent, and more.
The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
David Rumsey is a private collector of rare historic maps who has created an online database of scanned maps for public use. "The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection has over 10,000 maps online. The collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North and South America maps and other cartographic materials. Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia and Africa are also represented." The images can be viewed and downloaded in unusually high detail.
Basic country maps for PowerPoint presentations or papers
The best type of map to use if you need a small map of a single country on a standard-sized sheet of paper is a base, or outline, map, so called because they contain basic visible surface features and boundaries, and the most prominent feature is the outline of the country's political boundaries.
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
at University of Texas at Austin. The easiest base maps to use are CIA maps, which can be used without violating copyright. The Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection has many scanned copies of CIA maps that are of better quality than those available on the CIA's website.
Base or Outline Maps
page lists other base map resources available in the Map Collection
Old Maps of Seattle
Kroll Real Estate Atlases for the Pacific Northwest
Kroll atlases contain detailed parcel maps that show property lines, tax lot numbers, public parks, utility information, plat names, and many other features.
These atlases are the most complete collection of data for each county (all Washington; some Oregon and Idaho). Each page is a township map covering approximately 36 square miles. Scales vary from 2" to the mile with most counties and 4" to the mile for others in congested areas (1/4 townships). Most atlases do not show complete county coverage due to government holdings, national forest and parks, wilderness areas etc. Property names are provided for owners of five acres or more plus showing smaller lots and plats as well. (Source: Metsker Maps Publishing)
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
The Sanborn map collection consists of a uniform series of large-scale maps, dating from 1867 to the present and depicting the commercial, industrial, and residential sections of some twelve thousand cities and towns in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The maps were designed to assist fire insurance agents in determining the degree of hazard associated with a particular property and therefore show the size, shape, and construction of dwellings, commercial buildings, and factories as well as fire walls, locations of windows and doors, sprinkler systems, and types of roofs. The maps also indicate widths and names of streets, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. They show the locations of water mains, giving their dimensions, and of fire alarm boxes and hydrants. Sanborn maps are thus an unrivaled source of information about the structure and use of buildings in American cities. Maps also found on microfilm in the Suzzallo Library's Microform department.
Seattle Public Library
users may also access them online.
Source of description: UC Berkeley's Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Cadastral Survey Field Notes and Plats for Oregon and Washington (cd-rom)
Also on microfiche
. Also available online
via the Bureau of Land Management. A cadaster is a public record, survey, or map of the value, extent, and ownership of land as a basis of taxation. Cadastral surveys began in 1851 for the Washington and Oregon areas. They were done by the General Land Office as part of the Federal Public Land Survey System. The microfiche set contains original plat maps that show legal boundary descriptions, and shows terrain and landmarks, such as trees and cabins. Know the township(s) and range(s) for your area of interest.
Geospatial data for Washington State and Counties
Geospatial Data Resources Guide (formerly WAGDA)
This guide has geospatial data for the state of Washington and also contains selected non-Washington geospatial data sets that have been created by students and researchers at the University of Washington. The datasets you will find here are primarily formatted for use in ESRI's ArcView or Arc/Info software.
WAGDA List of Counties
The WAGDA list of counties includes contact information for Washington counties' GIS departments, links to the GIS Data Depot, and the United States Census website. Some data on this page is restricted to use by UW students, faculty, and staff. These data sets are clearly marked as UW restricted.
Frequently Used Resources
Aerial Photo Project Tool
The Aerial Photo Project Tool can be used to determine whether there are photos for your area of interest in the UW Libaries aerial photography collection, which consists of more than 80,000 photographs and is housed in the Map Collection in Suzzallo Library. Photos are not available online.
Geospatial Data Resources Guide (formerly WAGDA)
This site includes data for King County, City of Seattle, Washington geology, Washington digital elevation models (DEMs) and digital line graphs (DLGs). Some of this data is restricted to use by UW students, faculty, and staff. These data sets are clearly marked as UW restricted.
Washington State Department of Ecology Shoreline Aerial Photos
A very easy-to-use site with clickable index maps. "... over 10,000 ... true-color photos comprise a continuous series, panning left to right along the shoreline. The photos were taken to optimize sun angle, shoreline orientation, and low tides. Oblique photos are useful for interpreting bluff geology and land-sliding, riparian vegetation, and shoreline modifications such as bulkheads and seawalls."
King County iMap
"iMap is an application that allows you to view King County spatial information (GIS data and images) in an interactive map display. You can customize your map display to show just the information you want to see at the best scale for your chosen purpose. iMap is your window to a wealth of geographic information from throughout King County on such topics as real property, natural resources, political boundaries, planning, and much more."
A map that shows the changes to the Duwamish/Lake Washington/Elliot Bay area
A hiking map
The Map Collection has two kinds of maps that are excellent for hiking, both of which can be checked out:
Green Trails Maps
A standard Green Trails Map covers the same area as 4 USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles and provides clear, compact, and current information about trails and other recreational features in a convenient size and scale. These maps are 12" x 18" and include 15 minutes of coverage at 1:69,500.
Green Trails 15-minute series (Washington)
The Map Collection has a set of Green Trails maps for Washington and Oregon which can be checked out. They are located with their index in the Vertical Files under the call number "WA Green Trails"
Green Trails Maps website
Green Trails Maps are also widely available at retail outlets selling either recreational equipment or maps