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FAQ

There are some questions we receive again and again. You'll find our answers to them here.
 

Frequently Answered Questions

  1. What products and services are included in the National Atlas?
  2. I need a prepared page-sized map of the United States or my State that I can print from my computer. Are there any in the National Atlas?
  3. Can the National Atlas help me find a topographic map?
  4. What are the scales of National Atlas maps?
  5. How do I get more detailed information than what is in the National Atlas?
  6. I use a geographic information system (GIS). Can I download National Atlas map layers or connect to them as Web services?
  7. I like to make map mashups. Does the National Atlas support these?
  8. What software do I need to run the National Atlas?
  9. I have a question about Streamer. Where should I go?
  10. I need help using the National Atlas Map Maker. Where do I go?
  11. How do I find (a town, place, feature, etc.) using the National Atlas?
  12. I've noticed the little registered trademark symbol in "The National Atlas of the United States of America®."
    Does this mean that there are restrictions on using National Atlas data and maps?
  13. What is the appropriate citation for National Atlas information?
  14. Is the old National Atlas still available?
  15. I need a zip code map of the United States. Is one included in the National Atlas?
  16. Does the National Atlas include a map showing the regions of the United States?
  17. Can I use the National Atlas to get driving directions between two points in the United States?
  18. How do I report a problem with the data or with the National Atlas?
  19. Where can I get more help finding a map or answering my National Atlas question?
 
1. What products and services are included in the National Atlas?
Please see the National Atlas products page for a complete listing of the products and services included in the National Atlas.

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2. I need a prepared page-sized map of the United States or my State that I can print from my computer. Are there any in the National Atlas?
Yes! The National Atlas offers many page-sized maps. Please see our Printable Maps page for the latest list of the Printable Maps we offer. In addition, the following sites have links to United States maps in formats appropriate for printing. We welcome information on other sites that provide similar maps.

About.com Geography
Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook
Houghton Mifflin Company Education Place
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, The University
University of Alabama, United States Maps

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3. Can the National Atlas help me find a topographic map?
Yes, the National Atlas provides information on finding and displaying USGS topographic maps and digital aerial photographs.

Current topographic maps (called US Topos) as well as most historic topographic maps are available online from the USGS Store. These may be downloaded at no cost. There are also thousands of USGS map dealers in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

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4. What are the scales of National Atlas map)?
Our maps and data are intended for use at national or large regional scales. Most of our data are collected at scale of 1:2,000,000 or 1:1,000,000 (where an inch on the map at that scale is roughly 15.8 miles). Each dataset includes detailed documentation which includes an identification of scale. In the Map Maker, a bar scale appears under the map and is updated as you zoom in and out. The scale of each Wall Map is included on the Wall Maps page. We use a wide variety of scales on National Atlas Printable Maps.

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5. How do I get more detailed information than what is in the National Atlas?
There are several ways to get more detailed information than what you find in the National Atlas.

For basic map themes, such as streams, roads, and boundaries, we recommend visiting The National Map page. The production of both the National Atlas and The National Map is led by the National Geospatial Program of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Also, the National Atlas Map Maker includes links to sites where you can view detailed aerial photographs and large-scale topographic maps.

National Atlas thematic datasets come from many different Federal agencies and these organizations are often the best sources for more detailed information. Links from the National Atlas to Federal Web sites are provided in two ways. The Identify function in the Map Maker returns information with links to additional sites. There are also links provided in our National Atlas Data Download page. Click on a map layer name in the first column of the table on this page or on the map layer name in the Map Maker.

You may also find detailed dataset by searching online catalogs such as Data.Gov.

Finally, the U.S. Geological Survey offers a diverse collection of natural science information in digital and printed formats. You can call them toll-free at 1-888-ASK-USGS.

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6. I use a geographic information system (GIS). Can I download National Atlas map layers or connect to them as Web services?
Yes and they're free. Nearly all map layers presented within our Map Maker are available for use outside the National Atlas. You can download these map layers at no cost using file transfer protocol (FTP). See our National Atlas Data Download page for more information about downloading National Atlas map layers.

You can also embed the National Atlas in your own application if your code takes advantage of the evolving Web Feature Service (WFS) specifications from the Open Geospatial Consortium.

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7. I like to make map mashups. Does the National Atlas support these?
Sure, as long as your application supports the open Web Map Service (WMS) implementation specification. Consult our technical information about the National Atlas WMS. The National Atlas WMS for thematic data will be discontinued on September 30, 2014. The WMS and experimental Web Feature Service for framework data (essential map elements such as boundaries, surface waters, geographic names, transportation networks, etc.) at one million-scale will continue to operate and will eventually be offered via nationalmap.gov.

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8. What software do I need to run the National Atlas?
An up-to-date Web browser is the most important software that you need to use nationalatlas.gov. Browsers known to work include Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Apple Safari. Many earlier releases of these browsers work fine as well. Google Chrome and Opera Software's Web browser also appear to work, but these have not been extensively tested.

Please note that you must enable javascript and you must also allow pop-up windows. Consult your browser's documentation or built-in help system if more information on this is needed. Maps published as portable document files (PDF) require PDF reader software from Adobe or other sources. Some Dynamic Maps rely on Flash, Quicktime, or Shockwave

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9. I have a question about Streamer. Where should I go?
Streamer has its own set of Frequently Asked Questions.

Streamer is now managed by the National Hydrography Dataset program.

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10. I need help using the Map Maker. Where do I go?
Please visit the Help for the National Atlas Map Maker page. If you still have questions, please contact us here.

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11. How do I find (a town, place, feature, etc.)
The National Atlas Map Maker can be used to locate named places within the United States. Go to the Map Maker, click on the Find tab, and then follow the onscreen directions.

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12. I've noticed the little registered trademark symbol in "The National Atlas of the United States of America®." Does this mean that there are restrictions on using National Atlas data and maps?

No, not usually. Nearly all information collected by the Federal Government is in the public domain and use of National Atlas Data produced under this project is not restricted in any way. Both "National Atlas of the United States®" and "The National Atlas of the United States of America®" are registered trademarks of the United States Department of the Interior. The USGS has been publishing National Atlas products since 1970 and has simply taken action to trademark this term to incorporate all new graphic and electronic products of The National Atlas of the United States of America®.

Although the content of most National Atlas Web pages is in the public domain, some pages may contain material that is copyrighted by others and used by the National Atlas with permission. You may need to obtain permission from the copyright owner for other uses. Furthermore, some non-National Atlas data, products, and information linked, or referred to, from this site may be protected under U.S. and foreign copyright laws. You may need to obtain permission from the copyright owner to acquire, use, reproduce, or distribute these materials.

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13. What is the appropriate citation for National Atlas information?
To cite the National Atlas, we suggest:

National Atlas of the United States, March 5, 2003, http://nationalatlas.gov

Use the date found on the bottom of the National Atlas Data Download page. For individual layers, we suggest a slightly different format. Include the author and the map layer title, and use the publication date for the individual map layer, i.e.

Chris Daly, Spatial Climate Analysis Service, September 2000, United States Average Annual Precipitation, 1961-1990, in National Atlas of the United States, http://nationalatlas.gov

For National Atlas articles, we suggest including the article title and date. If authors are credited at the end of an article, cite them and any originating publication as well:

Ecoregions of the United States, in National Atlas of the United States, January, 2005, http://nationalatlas.gov

Consumer-Driven Agriculture, in National Atlas of the United States, January, 2005, adapted from Ballenger, Nicole and Blaylock, James, USDA/ERS, April 2003, Consumer-Driven Agriculture: Amber Waves, Vol. 1, Issue 2.

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14. Is the old National Atlas still available?
No. The National Atlas of the United States of America® published by the USGS in 1970, is out of print. However, the Library of Congress has added the original National Atlas to its American Memory collection on the World Wide Web. See the American Memory site to browse through the earlier atlas.

Also, many maps from the 1970 edition can be purchased from the USGS. See our page on Maps from the 1970 National Atlas for more information. Used or antique book stores and on-line auction sites are possible sources for the 1970 National Atlas. Reference copies are available in many libraries.

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15. I need a zip code map of the United States. Is one included in the National Atlas?
We do not have a zip code map layer at this time. However, in the National Atlas Map Maker you can search for a place by its zip code and then zoom to that location on your map. Go to the Map Maker, click on the Find tab, then follow the onscreen directions.

As far as we know, there are no free zip code maps available online. Several private companies sell zip code maps. Also see the U.S. Postal Service zip code look-up and address information page.

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16. Does the National Atlas include a map showing the regions of the United States?
We have not included a "Regions" map layer because the definition of regions is highly subjective. The definition of a particular region depends on the perspective of the user, the purpose of the map, or other factors. The following sites contain more information on the determination of regions.
Helping Your Child Learn Geography, U.S. Department of Education
Regions Defined, Library of Congress

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17. Can I  use the National Atlas to get driving directions between two points in the United States?
No, this is not a function of the National Atlas. The following Web sites do provide this service and we welcome information on additional sites.
bing Maps
Google Maps
MapQuest
Yahoo! Maps

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18. How do I report a problem with the data or with the National Atlas
Please send comments, bug reports, suggestions for improvements, questions, and any other communications to us here.

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19. Where can I get more help finding a map or answering my National Atlas question?
For additional questions about the National Atlas, please contact us here.

For help finding a map, you can refer to USGS FAQs.

If you need more information, you can contact the USGS at 1-888-ASK-USGS (888-275-8747), or by email at ask@usgs.gov, or by live Web chat.

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