December 17, 2009

Maps of the News - December 2009 Edition -

1918 Western Theatre of War Map
Since our inception as a division of the National Geographic Society in 1915, National Geographic Maps (originally the Cartographic Division) has routinely published maps that illustrate the news of the world. Our first supplement map, which appeared in the May 1918 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, titled the Western Theatre of War, served as a useful reference for overseas military personnel and soldier's families alike. Similarly our February 1967 map of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and recently, our Iraq and the Heart of the Middle East titles filled similar roles.

Maps are an excellent tool for the newshound, providing an accurate sense of place to issues local and abroad. To assist those that are interested in further understanding global news stories through good maps - we're pleased to announce a new monthly feature here on Contours that will highlight maps pertinent to today's news stories.

:: December 2009, Maps of the News ::

Afghanistan and Pakistan. Revised in Fall of 2009, this political map of the region contains thousands of place names, ideal for following news stories and deployed family members. Like all National Geographic cartography, our new Afghanistan and Pakistan map was carefully researched and edited and contains thousands of place names.

Iraq, Iran and the Middle East. This region dominates daily news stories. Our Middle East wall map covers over 18 nations in the region including: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, and more.

Philippines. Follow the recent eruption of the Mayon volcano in the Philippines, with our Asia classic and executive style wall maps for the continent.

Vancouver and the Winter Olympics. A detailed city guide, perfect for global travelers attending the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Brazil and the Summer Olympics. As Brazil enters the limelight and begins preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympic games in Rio, our Brazil wall map makes an ideal addition to your map collection. Completed in the summer of 2009, this large 41" x 41" wall map is one of the most detailed maps available for the country.

September 29, 2009

Our National Parks, Part II

With the kickoff of Ken Burn's documentary series, "The National Parks, America's Best Idea," we continue our highlight of a few of our nation's topographic treasures.

This week: Grand Canyon National Park (Courtesy of
The road to the Grand Canyon from the south crosses a gently rising plateau that gives no hint at what is about to unfold. You wonder if you have made a wrong turn. All at once an immense gorge a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide opens up. The scale is so vast that even from the best vantage point only a fraction of the canyon's 277 miles can be seen.

Nearly five million people travel here each year; 90 percent first see the canyon from the South Rim with its dramatic views into the deep inner gorge of the Colorado River. So many feet have stepped cautiously to the edge of major overlooks that in places the rock has been polished smooth. But most of the park's 1,904 square miles are maintained as wilderness. You can avoid crowds by hiking the park's many trails or driving to the cool evergreen forests of the North Rim where people are fewer and viewing is more leisurely.

The Grand Canyon boasts some of the nation's cleanest air, with visibility averaging 90 to 110 miles. Increasingly, though, air pollution blurs vistas that once were sharp and rich hued. Hazy days have become more common, with visibility dropping as low as 40 miles. Haze from forest fires and pollen has always been present, but the recent increase is traced to sources outside the park, like copper smelters and urban areas in Arizona, southern California, and even Mexico.

read more ...

Coming Soon! Explore the wondrous Grand Canyon National Park with our new Trails Illustrated trail maps.

August 17, 2009

Our National Parks, Part I

In honor of Ken Burn's documentary, "The National Parks, America's Best Idea," coming this fall, we're highlighting a few of our nation's topographic treasures.

This week: Yosemite National Park (Courtesy of National Geographic Traveler)
Location:Located in the Sierra Nevada range of California, the park is 195 miles east of San Francisco and 276 miles north of Los Angeles.

Vital Stats
Nearest airports: Fresno-Yosemite International, located 2.5 hours north on Highway 41. The San Francisco International airport is four hours east of Yosemite.

Established: Yosemite National Park was established in October 1890. Prior to the National Park Service (NPS), Yosemite was managed by the state and local congress. After the formation of the NPS, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were reinstated in 1906 back to the federal government to be included in the management of the NPS.

Size: 761,266 acres
Park website:
Snapshot: Recognized as a World Heritage site in 1984, Yosemite National Park covers over 745,000 acres of pristine wilderness filled with staggering cliffs, lakes, rivers, meadows, and a wealth of biological diversity. A haven to nature enthusiasts, artists, and families alike, the park is home to 800 miles of hiking trails, the tallest waterfall in the United States and the renowned giant sequoia groves.

Did You Know?
Towering more than 350 stories above Yosemite Valley, El Capitan is the largest exposed granite monolith in the world. By late August, Yosemite Falls are usually dry because the natural wonder relies solely on snowmelt. The peak flow is in late May and the falls return around October when the snow reappears. The park’s giant sequoia trees can live to be over 3,000 years old.

Scenic Drive
Approximately 48 miles in length, the Tioga Road is the most popular drive in Yosemite National Park. The road is the highest in the region, peaking at 9,945 feet at the Tioga Pass. The route winds through high peeks, meadows and creeks, allowing travelers to get a special view of the abundant wildlife in the park. Detour off of the main road to paths less traveled, including White Wolf, Siesta Lake, and the Red Fir Forest.

You can explore, navigate, and create custom maps of 25 of America's National Parks with our digital mapping software, on sale for a limited time here:

August 12, 2009

Free National Park Weekend

This weekend is another FREE pass to our National Parks.
Matthew Daly in Washington, D.C. Associated Press June 15, 2009

The U.S. National Park Service is looking to stimulate summer vacations at national parks, starting this weekend.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced earlier this month that entrance fees at 147 national parks and monuments—including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite—will be waived on three weekends this summer. The weekends are June 20 and 21, July 18 and 19, and August 15 and 16.

"During these tough economic times, our national parks provide opportunities for affordable vacations for families," Salazar said at a news conference at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.

"I encourage everyone to visit one of our nation's crown jewels this summer and especially to take advantage of the three free-admission weekends."

Most Americans live less than a day's drive from a national park, Salazar said. Last year national parks attracted more than 275 million visits, generating an estimated U.S. $10.6 billion for local economies and supporting more than 213,000 jobs, he said.

For the Park Service, the free weekends will mean a loss of an estimated half million dollars a day from entrance fees that range from $3 to $25. A total of 147 parks and monuments charge entrance fees. The country's other 244 parks are already free.

Kendra Barkoff, a spokesperson for Salazar, said the lost revenue should be more than offset by an increase in park tourism. Many tour operators, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and other vendors near national parks will offer other discounts and special promotions on the free-weekend dates, she said.

The waiver applies only to entrance fees and does not affect charges for camping, reservations, tours, or concessions, Salazar said.

Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat representing Montana, applauded the free weekends. Baucus has co-sponsored a bill that would cap park entrance fees at current rates unless approved by Congress. The bill also would limit fees on national forests and other federally managed lands.

"There is nothing better than spending a weekend in Glacier or Yellowstone, and to be able to do it without straining the budget is even better," Baucus said in a statement. "Folks should be able to enjoy our outdoor heritage without going broke."

Kitty Benzar, president of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, a Colorado-based group that opposes fees on public lands, said Salazar's announcement was an admission that high fees are a deterrent to park visits.

"Twenty, 25 dollars does mean a lot to people," she said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

August 7, 2009

“Volunteering — a Way to Give Back When Money Isn’t an Option”

In today’s economy, parting with hard-earned dollars to support your favorite charity or cause just may not be feasible. Consider donating yourself and your time as a way to give back without impacting your piggy bank.

Here’s how Chris Knoll, a cartographer here at NatGeo Maps, is giving back:

As part of an ongoing effort to support access to some of Colorado’s most popular 14er mountains, I participated in a stewardship adventure with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado who partnered with Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. The main focus of this project was to work on building a sustainable trail up to 14,172 foot peak Mount Bross; which is near Fairplay, CO (90 miles southwest of Denver). Due to numerous unmarked mine shafts and a network of unmanaged social trails, access to the summit of Mount Bross was closed in 2006 until private land owners in conjunction with the US Forest Service can come to an agreement on the new route.

This is where the volunteers come in to action. Four crews totaling about forty people were given the task of stabilizing, reconstructing, and rerouting a trail leading up to Mt. Bross. The work included building sustainable portions of trail by installing rock steps where trail erosion is present, delineating one path up the mountain, and covering up social trails by re-vegetating these areas with native tundra plants that grow at higher elevations.

After work was completed each day, volunteers were fed by VOC staff, and were given the opportunity to socialize around the campfire and even take short hikes in the area. However, nights were called in early due to early 5:45 a.m. wake up calls.

All in all, the work that was completed over the weekend was meaningful and fun. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment knowing that one day, I will be able to hike a trail that I helped to construct.

For more information on non-profit volunteer groups mentioned in this article, check out, and

~Chris Knoll, Cartographer, National Geographic Maps

July 30, 2009

The Complete America’s Great Trails Act

American Hiking Society constantly monitors legislation that could enhance or protect the hiking experience. A new bill, HR 1912 - the Complete America’s Great Trails Act - has the potential to significantly benefit some of the most spectacular trails in America. This proposed legislation would grant a tax credit to private landowners who provide conservation easements to certified National Scenic Trails – resulting in a low-cost incentive for willing landowners to donate easements that would increase trail connectivity. This means that private landowners have a new incentive to allow hikers to pass through their property, and trails get a guaranteed corridor that protects the connectivity and continuity of the hiking experience for years to come!

American Hiking supports HR 1912 and applauds Rep. Connolly (D-VA) and Rep. Lummis (R-WY) for introducing this forward-thinking legislation. We also applaud Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Bono-Mack (R-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Trails Caucus, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Massa (D-NY), McMahon (D-NY), Lance (R-NJ), Polis (D-Co), Boccieri (D-OH), Pierluisi (D-RC-PR), for their original co-sponsorship of this important legislation.

American Hiking advocates for changes in policies that provide our partners with as many tools as possible to protect and manage our nation’s great trails. Thus, we work closely with regional and local organizations that protect, maintain and promote the various elements of America’s National Trails System. We also partner with Congress and the federal land management agencies charged with managing and administering our trail resources.

American Hiking has championed the protection and enhancement of America’s National Trails System since our founding in 1976. Our National Trails System consists of more than 7,000 authorized miles of National Scenic Trails, more than 36,000 miles of National Historic Trail routes, and more than 1,000 registered National Recreation Trails.

Take Action to urge your Representative to co-sponsor HR 1912.

Read the full text of HR 1912, and read the Dear Colleague Letter being circulated by Reps. Connolly and Lummis.

July 15, 2009

NG Atlas wins British award

By David Miller
Senior Editor, NG Maps

The "National Geographic Visual Atlas of the World" won the prestigious John C. Bartholomew Award at this year’s British Cartographic Society meeting near London. Rebecca Hill, international marketing director at National Geographic’s London office, accepted the award for the Book Publishing Group, which produced the atlas in 2008.

The award, sponsored by the Bartholomew family and HarperCollins, recognizes “originality and excellence in the field of thematic cartography with emphasis on effective communication of the intended theme or themes.” Now in its 30th year, the award includes an engraved crystal trophy and award certificate. Among the many entries, the "Visual Atlas of the World" was singled out for special praise from the judges: “This atlas lives up to its title, and through a large series of well-compiled, beautifully designed thematic maps presents a dramatic picture of today’s world and the issues it faces.”

The "Visual Atlas of the World," with 416 pages, 350 maps and more than 600 photographs, satellite images and illustrations, reveals a common planetary heritage by highlighting World Heritage sites.

“The atlas blends two of National Geographic bests—state-of-the-art cartography and brilliant photography, which together tell compelling stories across the globe," said Carl Mehler, director of maps and project editor for the atlas.

"The collective efforts, talent and innovation of the atlas staff made this project materialize into a uniquely diverse cartographic collection. We're honored and delighted to receive this recognition from the British Cartographic Society,” he continued.

Find more information on the atlas at

June 23, 2009

President Obama Receives National Geographic Map Cabinet

This is "one gift I will definitely keep," President Obama said when he was presented with a National Geographic Society map cabinet at the White House.

Visit the NATGEO NEWS WATCH Blog by News Editor David Braun for the full story:

Photos courtesy of The White House

June 22, 2009

College Students Win National Geographic Map Awards

As college campuses across the country close for summer recess, we know of a few students heading home that are perhaps a little happier because their maps earned awards. National Geographic sponsors several map awards
(see to reward student innovation—so far six students have won this year:

Ben Coakley, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Scheduled Service on Small Airlines in Canada, Summer 2008.
Daniel Huffman, University of Wisconsin-Madison,
Rising Skyline: The Tallest Buildings in Europe, 1875-2007.

Mathieu Noble, Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), King of Coal.

Wes Jones, Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.
Cindy Prostak, Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gregg Verutes, San Diego State University, Health, Poverty and Place in Accra, Ghana.

Check out for more information and updates.

April 20, 2009

NG Maps Produces Online Geotourism Atlas for Greater Yellowstone

National Geographic’s Maps Division and Center for Sustainable Destinations teamed up to produce the first NG-developed Online Geotourism MapGuide to support sustainable tourism across the Greater Yellowstone region of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

The site,, which launched on March 31st, is open to anyone to discover and share information about unique features, tours, and businesses that best represent and sustain the natural and cultural character of the region. Visitors can also request a free print MapGuide.

Geotourism is the kind of travel that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Online Geotourism MapGuides are web versions of the print maps that National Geographic has developed for a number of regions around the world, including Crown of the Continent, Baja California, and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to name a few.

In addition to producing print and/or web maps, these projects bring together diverse representatives from the local communities to collectively define what makes their region special and how best to communicate it to the rest of the world. NG Maps is excited to participate in these projects that help travelers and local communities discover and preserve special places around the world. Anyone interested in developing a Geotourism MapGuide for their region, or simply becoming a “Geotraveler” should visit

April 15, 2009

To Earth with Love :: Take 20% off all World Maps!

Show your love for Mother Earth this Earth Day! For the month of April, take 20% off our entire line of World maps. All proceeds from the sale will go to support the Society’s many worldly causes. Use code EARTHLOVE09.

Take 20% off All World Maps!
1. Visit
2. Register with your email address and the code above in the "New Member Registration" area.
3. Enter the required information and create an account.

April 6, 2009

Supersize Your Map!

Did you know that three of our most popular wall maps are available as murals?

These super-sized maps will enhance any office, den, kid's room, school, boardroom, hallway or public space. They're approximately 9 feet wide by 6 feet high.

The murals come as three durable latex-coated panels which are hung like wallpaper. Directions are included.

Details and purchase info here.

February 26, 2009

This Spring Break - Head to the Yucatan! :: We've Got Your Map

While the weather here at the National Geographic maps offices in Colorado has been unseasonably warm, many cities throughout the country have seen record cold temperatures, feet of snow, torrential rain, and even a few rare February tornadoes. If you're one of the poor souls tired of walking past cold windy alleys, digging your car out from behind the snowplow berm, or excited when "spring fever" means 37 degrees - then turn your attention south to Mexico and the lush Yucatan Peninsula.

The Yucatan offers something for every tourist. For the resort set, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the rest of the Riviera Maya offer 5-star hotels, white sand beaches, warm Caribbean waters, and plenty of nightlife, restaurants, and bars to shake off your mid-winter chills. Those that enjoy a more adventurous vacation will find the Maya sites scattered throughout the peninsula (easily accessible via numerous tour agencies) an alluring attraction with their incredible architecture and historical significance.

In the case you're still undecided on the Yucatan as your spring break destination here are a few other compelling reasons:

* Current temperature in Cancun (11am, 2.27.09) = 79 degrees. Current temperature in Boston = 35 degrees.

* Current water temperature off the coast of Cancun = 78 degrees.

* $1.00 currently equivalent to 14.98 (MXN Pesos)

* Roundtrip airfare from Boston to Cancun the weekend of March 13th, $358.

Now that you're ready to start packing your bags and making the clicks to purchase hotel and airfare, make sure you pick up a copy of our brand new Northern Yucatan Peninsula and Maya Sites Adventure Map. At just $11.95, this is the perfect companion for your trip for both pre-trip planning and in-country navigation.

The front side of the map contains a carefully researched and detailed road layer with hundreds of place names, including the small rural towns that are scattered throughout the peninsula. Two inset maps provide street level detail for Merida and Cancun and include the locations of key infrastructure like post offices, hospitals, and bus stations, but also popular points of interest like parks and museums. Adventure travelers will benefit with the locations of prime snorkeling, surfing, and fishing spots plus Maya historical sites and federal and state protected lands.

The map's reverse contains a detailed guide to (7) of the most popular Maya Sites, complete with inset maps that highlight points of interest at each location. A cool new feature noted on this map are Maya sites with TekTrek multimedia destination guides available for download. These immersive audio and video programs include information on the history and significance of the sites and how to support local sustainability efforts. Sites detailed on the back of the map include: Chichen Itza, Ek' Balam, Tulum, El Rey, Uxmal, Coba', and San Gervasio. Downloadable TekTrek guides are available at their website.

Our new Yucatan map is available now at the NG Online Store and directly from National Geographic Maps. To place an order call 800.962.1643 Mon-Fri between 8:00am and 5:00pm mountain time.

To learn more and browse our Yucatan map - visit it's page on our website.