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How are U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps named?

A USGS topographic map usually is named for the most prominent feature within the bounds of the map, which is frequently a community. Topographic maps generally are named for the most centrally located, well-known, and/or largest community identified on the map.

If the community for which the map should be named falls on two or more maps, a directional term might be used such as East and West. An example is Washington East and Washington West, D.C. 

If the map contains no communities or is very rural, it can be named for the most prominent and centrally located physical or natural feature within the bounds of the map.

Naming maps for linear features such as streams is generally avoided because such features usually pass through maps or meander on and off the maps. Occasionally, a map area is so devoid of named topography that a directional might be used, as in adding NW or SE to the name of an adjacent map, or even using the map name from a smaller scale series and applying the directional term.

A map's primary state is the state that contains the name feature, which is not always the same as the state that has most of the map area. The primary state is almost always included in the map title. Secondary states are often, but not always, also included in the title. If multiple states are present in the title, the primary state is listed first. 

Names are maintained for standard geographic cells, and when a map is published it takes the current name of its associated cell. Cell name and primary state can change, so maps published at different times for the same cell do not necessarily have the same title or even the same primary state. However, the normal case is for maps of the same cell to have the same name-state title, and publication dates must be specified to distinguish between different map versions.

Tags: Maps, Education, Geospatial, Atlases