Update: Be sure to also read my new article “How to Read and Interpret Topographic Maps”.
Last year I posted a tutorial on how to add topographic maps to Google Earth. The method that I used it that tutorial worked fairly well, although it did have its limitations. Sometimes the service that provided the maps would time out, and sometimes the maps themselves would be a bit out of date.
Over the last couple of months I have been using a new way to integrate topographic maps into Google Earth, which is not only easier to implement, but also performs much better. Let’s take a look…
- First things first, make sure you have Google Earth installed.
- Visit http://services.arcgisonline.com.
- Under “Services”, select NGS_Topo_US_2D (MapServer).
- On the “NGS_Topo_US_2D” page, under “View In”, select Google Earth.
- You should now be prompted to open or save the file “NGS_Topo_US_2D.kmz”
- Save the file to your computer.
- Browse to the file on your computer and double-click it to open with Google Earth
With the file now open in Google Earth you should now see a “NGS_Topo_US_2D” icon under Temporary Places. If you want Google Earth to keep this file available for future use, it is best to move the NGS Topo item to “My Places”; simply drag the icon from Temporary Places and drop it on My Places. (See the blue highlight in the screenshot above.)
Another helpful feature of this map is the ability to show it , hide it, or blend it with satellite imagery. Select the NGS Topo item and then drag the visibility slider to change the level of the topographic map’s opacity. (See the red highlight in the screenshot above.)
I have noticed that sometimes the topographic map will not load correctly if you let Google Earth zoom-in too fast when it first opens. If you have Google Earth setup to zoom to a specific point when the program launches, be sure that you don’t let it zoom to that point too fast. Launch Google Earth, let it begin to load and zoom, but pause the zoom until you see the topographic layer load, then resume zooming to the location that you want to view.
I don’t know about you, but I find the combination of satellite imagery and topographic maps to be an invaluable tool. Whether you are wanting to get a better understanding of the areas you already hunt, or you are looking for new places to hunt, I hope you find this tool to be a great addition to your hunting. Enjoy!