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Topographic maps, two-dimensional depictions of terrain, are invaluable tools for outdoors enthusiasts--and beautiful pieces of art.

## Scale

A topographic map’s scale fraction or ratio refers to any measurement unit. On a map with a scale of 1:12,000, one inch on the map equals 12,000 inches in the actual depicted terrain, just as one map foot, one map centimeter, and so on would equal 12,000 feet, centimeters, and so forth on the ground.

Topographic maps, two-dimensional depictions of terrain, are invaluable tools for outdoors enthusiasts--and beautiful pieces of art.

## Contours

Contour lines are the foundation of the topographic map. Along the length of any given line, the elevation remains the same. Some contour lines will be labeled (in feet or meters) as references. Closed contours represent summits, and ones with hatch marks represent depressions.

Topographic maps, two-dimensional depictions of terrain, are invaluable tools for outdoors enthusiasts--and beautiful pieces of art.

## Intervals

The map will provide a contour interval, which refers to the vertical difference between two adjoining lines. A smaller contour interval--one of 500 feet, say, instead of 2,000--will show greater detail.

Topographic maps, two-dimensional depictions of terrain, are invaluable tools for outdoors enthusiasts--and beautiful pieces of art.

## Maps and Geology

You can make an educated guess about an area’s underlying geology simply from the contours of a topographic map. For example, a highland with a very steep scarp on one edge and a gradual slope on the other might suggest terrain dominated by faulting.

Topographic maps, two-dimensional depictions of terrain, are invaluable tools for outdoors enthusiasts--and beautiful pieces of art.