Crater Lake National Park


Digital maps for the National Park Service

Heading to State of the Map US

Posted on 05 Jun 2013 by Mamata Akella

State of the Map US

Nate and I are headed to San Francisco for State of the Map US (SOTM) this weekend. SOTM is a gathering where people from across the country meet to discuss, learn, and present about the work they're doing with OpenStreetMap (OSM).

We'll both be presenting in the "OSM in Government" track on Sunday, June 9th starting at 10:30am. Nate will present on our new Places of Interest system, and I will present on an OSM pilot project that we recently did with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

All sessions at the conference will be live streamed and posted on the State of the Map US website, so be sure to watch if you can't make it to San Francisco. If you're going to be in San Francisco, find us or get in touch on Twitter: @npmap!

Denver OpenStreetMap Editathon

Posted on 17 Apr 2013 by Nate Irwin

National Park Service and OpenStreetMap

Join Mamata and I as we help improve OpenStreetMap coverage for our National Parks at the Denver OpenStreetMap Editathon this Saturday, April 20th, on the DU campus.

We'll be meeting in Room 123 of Boettcher West (2050 E. Iliff Avenue) from 10am-4pm. Wifi is provided, but make sure to bring your own laptop. You can RSVP on the OSM Colorado Meetup event page:

We hope to see you there!

Using Park Tiles in ArcGIS Online

Posted on 22 Mar 2013 by Mamata Akella

Esri recently released a new version of ArcGIS Online that introduced some new capabilities, including the ability to add a Tile Layer with a URL template. This means that Park Tiles, which is designed and hosted using tools from MapBox, can now be added to an ArcGIS Online map.

How To

  1. Go to the My Map view in the map viewer
  2. Click on the Add button in the top left hand corner of the My Map interface
  3. Select the option to "Add Layer from Web"
  4. From the drop-down in the Add Layer from Web window, choose the option to reference "A Tile Layer"
  5. Copy and paste the follwoing into the "URL" field:
  6. If you would like to use Park Tiles as your basemap layer, check the option "Use as Basemap"
  7. Give the map a Title and Credits
  8. In the Subdomains field type the following: a,b,c,d
  9. Click the button to "Add Layer"

The Add Tile Layer interface in ArcGIS Online

You should now see Park Tiles loaded into the ArcGIS Online map viewer.

You can hide layers by taking the ID of the layer out of the URL. For example, you can hide Road Shields by taking out of the URL.

Our Conference Schedule for 2013

Posted on 21 Feb 2013 by Nate Irwin

Sequestration is putting a bit of a damper on our travel this year, but we are still planning on attending and presenting at several conferences. Mamata is doing the bulk of the traveling, but our entire team is going to try to make it to State of the Map US in San Francisco in June. Here's a list of the conferences we'll be at this year:

  • FedGeo Day - February 28, 2013 in Washington, DC
  • FOSS4G NA - May 22-24, 2013 in Minneapolis, MN
  • SOTM US - June 8-9, 2013 in San Francisco, CA
  • NACIS - October 9-11, 2013 in Greenville, SC

If you are going to be at any of these conferences, make sure to find us and say "hello"; we'd love to talk shop!

Relief Methodology in Park Tiles

Posted on 11 Feb 2013 by Tom Patterson

During our initial planning for Park Tiles, we spent a week working on shaded relief and cartography with NPS Cartographer and relief guru Tom Patterson. In this guest post, Tom explains the design rationale behind how the shaded relief is symbolized in Park Tiles.

Tom has created a methodology for generating shaded relief specifically for web maps. Be sure to check out the link at the bottom of this post for his online web relief tutorial.

Mamata Akella


Given the world famous landscapes of Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and other National Parks, including shaded relief on Park Tiles was an easy decision to make. Trickier to decide was just how to design a shaded relief that could do justice to this spectacular terrain while also serving as an unobtrusive background for multi-purpose maps. Another objective was creating a relief that complements the design standards found on the visitor maps produced by Harpers Ferry Center.


On Park Tiles, the shaded relief functions as a ubiquitous background. The relief is kept light to maximize the legibility of park areas, roads, rivers, boundaries, urban areas, and labels that appear on top of it. A relief that prints too dark would lessen overall map legibility. We also wanted a color that could stand on its own as an attractive and pleasing tone — thus, sterile gray was ruled out. After trial and error, we decided on light, neutral beige.

A beige shaded relief makes it possible to present other map information lightly and with clear visual hierarchies. For example, roads appear unobtrusively in a light red. The shaded relief also features reduced contrast for its highlights and shadows. This makes for a less “noisy” background—the shaded relief does not distract from park and thematic information on the map. And because a little tone exists even the brightest highlights, white state and international boundaries show up no matter how rugged the terrain.

Ocean Vignettes

We’ve also paid close attention to water. Tones for land and water are complementary yet provide enough figure-ground contrast to distinguish the coast. River and lakes use the same blue tint as the oceans, putting all water features on the same visual plane. Even more important, the land-water boundary appears without any thin coastal lines, making for a cleaner map. A feathered vignette applies darker blue tones along the immediate coast fading to lighter blue further offshore. This graphical effect gives emphasis to coasts without excessively darkening the map.


Creating the shaded relief and ocean vignettes was accomplished with a combination of GIS and graphical software. For example, coloring the shaded relief as beige and adding ocean vignettes occurred in Adobe Photoshop using the Geographic Imager plugin by Avenza, which maintains georeferencing. We used Natural Scene Designer 6.0 to generate the shaded reliefs, saved as GeoTIFFs. To get around the 4GB file size limit for GeoTIFFs, we created smaller, overlapping shaded reliefs for the very large areas covered by zoom levels 9 and higher. We then used GDAL VRT files to reference the multiple GeoTiffs, and then loaded these single pieces into TileMill, giving these relief pieces a seamless appearance on the final online map.

Natural Scene Designer 6.0

For detailed information on creating web map shaded relief, visit