Reading Topographic Maps
handout exercisesuggested grade levels: 7-12

view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

Topographic maps are used to represent the three dimensional surface of the land on a two dimensional piece of paper. Contour lines are used to represent changes in elevation from one side of the line to the other. By doing this exercise, students should become more familiar with how to read a topographic map.

1. Students will learn how to use the Digital Atlas of Idaho.
2. Students will become more familiar with reading a topographic map.

Have your students use the Digital Atlas of Idaho. To get there: Click on Atlas Home, Historical Geography, Basics, then on Topography. Students should work in groups of 2-3. Have your students read through the material on topography and then do the following activity. Click here to print out the Sulphur-Boundary Creek area map. Make enough copies so each group has a copy.

These are links to access the handouts and printable materials.
geo20ho.pdf | geo20AK.pdf | Topography | Sulphur-Boundary Creek area map

Handout Sample:
Answer the questions below.

1.What is the highest elevation shown on this map? Where is the lowest elevation?
2.What is the contour interval of this map?
3.Imagine a straight line drawn from the peak labeled 7,260 to the peak labeled 6,847. If you were to hike from
peak 7,260 to 6,847 peak, would a straight line be the easiest way to get there? Why or why not?

Related Lesson Topics:
Geology: Geology Topics

Lesson plan by James Scannell and Stefan Sommer, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: