Know your land: Alaska maps

North Polar map Stielers Handatlas
North Polar Map / Adolf Stielers Handatlas 1891

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists –

Over eight thousand historical maps of Alaska are now available to the public through the United States Geological Survey’s Historical Topographic Map Collection. The collection includes maps of Alaska crafted as long ago as 1899, maps created to commemorate Alaska’s induction into statehood in January 1959, and more. Records of topography, geography, physiography and culture color in the details of the 49th state.

The wilds of Alaska, the Last Frontier, have inspired early people, indigenous cultures, American settlers, and modern-day adventure lovers. This map repository records history and highlights changes through time. Whether documenting changes cultural or climate-related, the historical record can help researchers assess the past and predict trends into the future.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offers complete maps of the nation, available to the public as free downloads in GeoPDF and as printed copies through mail-order from the USGS Store for a fee of $15 plus a $5 handling charge.

Ketchikan Topographic map Alaska
Topographic map of Ketchikan, southeast Alaska / Army Map Service, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army 1954


The USGS historically crafted traditional cartographic maps and printed them using the lithographic printing process. Now, digital format GeoPDFs are being archived by the USGS National Geospatial Program as a centralized master catalogue of modern-day maps. The USGS Topo is the official U.S. digital topographic map. The database allows for easy map distribution and use in modern technology, while boasting nationally consistent data and granting users more convenience, like controls to change the visibility of data layers. Maps are georeferenced (linked to latitude and longitude coordinates), have interactive capabilites with Google Maps, and are compatible with other USGS Topo maps.

Love maps? Look forward to work from the Alaska Mapping Initiative, a multi-agency effort created to remap Alaska at a very detailed scale of 1:25,000.

Love Alaska? Learn about Archaeology and Native Petroglyphs, Climate Modeling and Climate Change and so much more at Frontier Scientists.

Last Frontier Historical Topographic Maps Released Oct 18, 2012 by the U.S. Geological Survey

Watch Learning to Fly in the Aleutians, part of a series on Unmanned Aircraft Research with the University of Alaska.