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There are many types of maps, which are usually labeled based on what their trying to show. There are lots of ways to read these types of maps.

Each show different data. Most maps will include a compass rose, indicating which way is north, south, east and west. Additionally, they add a scale to help you estimate distances.

It must be noted that there’s often overlapping features between maps. One example is, a topographic map that could be utilized to show the distribution of a local orchid making it both a topographic and thematic map. It could also be used to show popular features of specific interest to travelers making this topographic, general reference, and thematic maps all in one.

Every one of these map types can be a one of a kind, stand-alone, map without any association with other maps or they might be piece of numerous related maps, these are typically called Series Maps.

All of the below maps have one important thing in common – they have a set of rules that decide how their made and what they show.

An example of a single stand-alone map is a tourist resort map that may be rather simple.  An example of an extreme opposite map is  the 1776 American Atlas by Thomas Jeffreys.  It is a very complex series of maps where inside all maps are essential to each other and have similar content.  All the maps have a uniform ‘look and feel’.

Cadastral Maps

Example of a Cadastral Map
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Example of a Cadastral Map

What is a Cadastral Map?

Cadastral maps are much more detailed. The plans map out individual properties providing details, such as, boundary information when houses or land are surveyed, and could be combined to build bigger cadastral maps.

Cadastral mapping was among the earliest types of mapping where the ancient Egyptians created cadastral records to establish ownership of land just after flooding from the Nile River.

“Cadastral” comes from the word cadastre, meaning a public record, survey, or map of the value, degree, and ownership of land for purposes of taxation.

Topographic Maps

Example of a Topographic Map
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Example of a Topographic Map

What is a Topographic Map?

A topographic map is a lot like a physical map because it indicates different physical landscape features. These maps are different on the other hand because they use contour lines rather than colors showing changes in the land.

Contour lines on topographic maps are usually spaced at regular intervals showing elevation changes and the closer the lines are together, the steeper the terrain.

These maps can be used for a variety of reasons, from camping, hunting, fishing, and hiking to urban planning, resource managing, and surveying.

The nice thing about relief or topographical maps is that they show the true lay of the land, so to speak. That includes streams, valleys, rivers, mountains, hills, and more. They also display important landmarks and roads.

Political Map

Example of a Physical Map of Europe
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Example of a Physical Map of Europe

What is a Political Map?

Political maps are made to show governmental boundaries of nations, states, counties, cities and towns, and might have some physical features such as rivers, streams, and lakes. The characteristic of a political map is a simple to use detailed index.

Political maps will not indicate any topographic features. It instead focuses just on the national and state borders of a region. They will also add the location of key cities, plus they usually include significant bodies of water, according to the details in the map.

Although some physical features show up on political maps, including major mountain ranges, the use of this is to provide geographical reference indicating any physical features.

These boundaries and locations are usually based on people instead of the natural world.

Physical Maps

Example of a Physical Map of the USA
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Example of a Physical Map of the USA

What is a physical map?

The definition of a physical map is a description of the geographical features of a location.

Physical maps can include a lot of identical information available on a political map, however, their main function is to indicate land forms like deserts, mountains, lakes and plains.

Their topography style provides a complete picture of the local terrain. A physical map displays the natural landscape characteristics of an area.

Thematic Map

Example of a Thematic Map of US 2012 election map by county
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Example of a Thematic Map of US 2012 election map by county

What is a Thematic Map?

Thematic maps are data maps of a unique topic or for a specific purpose.

A thematic map is not the same as a general reference map since these maps don’t just show natural features like rivers, cities, political subdivisions, elevation, and highways.

If these things are on a thematic map, they are background details and they are used as reference points to improve the map’s design.

Climate Map

Example of a Climate Map of US
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Example of a Climate Map of US

What is a Climate Map?

A climate map shows knowledge about the climate of a region.

Their able to display things like the precise climatic zones of an area using the temperature, such as, how much snow an area gets or average amount of cloudy days.

These maps normally use colors to point out different climatic areas.

Road Map

Example of a Road Map
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Example of a Road Map

What is a Road Map?

A road map or route map is a form of navigational map that primarily displays roads and transport links instead of natural geographical information.

A road map is one of the more popular types of maps. These maps show minor and major highways and roads (based on detail) along with things like airports, city locations, and interesting attractions, such as, parks, campgrounds, and monuments.

Major highways with a road map are usually red and bigger than other roads, while minor roads can be a lighter color and a smaller line.

General Reference Map

Example of a General Reference Map
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Example of a General Reference Map

What is a General Reference Map?

Imagine a regular map, where towns and cities are named, major transportation routes are included together with natural features like lakes and rivers, and you’ll be thinking of a general reference map.

These are the basic maps which are perfect for helping you get to your destination. They are easily read and include street and tourist maps.

The maps display the boundaries, names and different identifiers of ordinary regional areas, along with major cultural and physical features, for example roads, railroads, coastlines, rivers and lakes.

Navigational Chart Map

Example of a Navigational Chart Map
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Example of a Navigational Chart Map

What is a Navigational Chart Map?

It’s a map that shows the layout of the shoreline and seafloor.

Navigational charts are priceless tools helping you make your way around, no matter whether you’re on the ocean or in the air.
Maps for the ocean are usually known as charts, and the same is true for air navigation mapping.

These charts often include information that’s essential to avoiding accidents in and around the water like submerged rocks, as well as, providing additional navigational aids.

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