The Graphic Overlay Method

Determining Appropriate Map Features
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What information is needed for my project? 

The required map information is established using standard land planning processes (models).  Particular models require particular map data.  

One must be very thorough in the initial (inventory) phases of the Geographic Information Systems process.  Existing local features are always an integral part of determining an appropriate community development plan.  Field visits, photographs, and (land and water) maps are used to identify, and then inventory (in terms of absence or presence) all significant local features.  Next, it is important to determine how to "best" represent the collective features (accurately) on an existing, or newly created (base) map.  

The data collection process is sometimes called "feature inventory."  The following listing suggests the type features that could (or should) be identified, inventoried, and classified.  
 

Typical "sets" of GIS Map Features
Agricultural Map Features
Engineering Features
Forest Vegetation Features
Geological and Physiographic Features
Industrial and Utility Features
Military and Defense Features
Mining and Excavation Features
Transportation and Communication Features
Urban Features
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Water and  Shoreline Features
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Features should be "of value" to the information gathering effort.  As you study a map (or photographs) of an area, always ask a few practical questions before deciding to use or discard a feature from the exhaustive list of data inventory possibilities.  
  • Does (other) more accurate or reliable information currently exist? 
  • What agencies or organizations have useful information? (USGS, SCS, USFS, etc.) 
  • Which paper or electronic maps have specific features? (USGS topography, etc) 
  • Is the particular feature "under consideration" needed in this GIS project? 
  • Will the overall quality of the project suffer if I do not to include this feature?
  • What are the units of measure that "quantify" each of the map features? 
Some map features are measured directly, others are interpreted indirectly.  Specific categories of map feature classifications will always vary depending on the use, and the user.  The following are suggested map feature classification categories utilized by the U.S. Geological Survey, et al. (Listed by general land activity category).  

Return to the Features Index 


The Features list includes examples from both the Built and Natural environment. 

Agricultural Map Features 

  • Abandoned farm fields
  • Abandoned pasture Bailed hay (round and square)
  • Barns and other buildings
  • Cultivated crops 
  • Row crops 
  • Broadcast crops 
  • Drill crops 
  • Fence rows 
  • Greenhouses 
  • Hay stockpiles 
  • Hedge rows 
  • Improved pastures
  • Irrigated cropland
  • Livestock 
  • Orchards 
  • Terraced cropland and contour plowing 
  • Unimproved pastures 
  • Vineyards 
  • Wood lots 
  • Shrubs 
  • Wooded marsh 
  • Clearings 
Return to the Features Index 

Engineering Features 
  • Athletic stadiums 
  • Bridges
  • Campgrounds 
  • Canals and drainage ditches 
  • Cemeteries 
  • Dam structures 
  • Drive in theaters 
  • Fences 
  • Fire (lookout) towers 
  • Levees
  • Military forts 
  • Picnic areas 
  • Pipelines 
  • Power substations 
  • Power transmission lines
    • wooden poles 
    • metal towers 
    • underground cables 
  • Racetracks 
  • Railroad stations 
  • Railroads (related detail features) 
  • Reservoirs 
  • River docks and ferry landings 
  • Road-cuts and Road-fills 
  • Sewage disposal plants
  • Ski lifts 
  • Tanks (Oil, gas, and water) 
  • Telephone lines wooden poles metal towers underground
  • Telephone substations 
  • Towers (radio and television) 
  • Water filtration plants 
  • Water storage tanks 
  • Windmills 
Return to the Features Index 

Forest Vegetation Features 
  • Coniferous trees (Pine trees) 
  • Deciduous trees (Hardwood trees) 
  • Mixed Predominately Coniferous trees, and Deciduous trees. (60/40) 
  • Mixed Predominately Deciduous trees and Coniferous trees. (60/40) 
  • Bottom land hardwoods Understory 
Return to the Features Index 

Geological and Physiographic Features  
  • Alluvial Fans 
  • Anticlines and Synclines 
  • Cliffs
  • Eskers and Drumlins 
  • Geological faults and fractures 
  • Hogback ridges 
  • Rock outcrops 
  • Sheet or gully erosion 
  • Volcanic lava flows 
Return to the Features Index 

Industrial and Utility Features 
  • Automobile manufacturing 
  • Cement, and concrete manufacturing 
  • Chemical manufacturing and storage 
  • Corridors and Rights-of-way (gas, oil, and electric) 
  • Electric lines (wooden and steel towers) 
  • Electrical power plants 
  • Electrical sub stations (power distribution) 
  • Furniture manufacturing 
  • Lumber yards 
  • Meat processing plants 
  • Municipal water wells 
  • Petroleum and chemical plants 
  • Petroleum and chemical storage areas 
  • Pulp and paper mills 
  • Sawmills 
  • Sewage disposal plants 
  • Steel and other metal fabrication 
  • Stockyards 
  • Textile mills 
  • Water purification plants 
Return to the Features Index 

Military and Defense Features 
  • Airfields (airplanes and helicopters) 
  • Ammunition dumps (storage) 
  • Artillery ranges 
  • Barracks (Quarters or Residences) 
  • Base (post) 
  • Headquarters 
  • Dry-docks 
  • Mechanized vehicle storage (repair) 
  • Radar installations 
  • Rifle ranges 
  • Shipyards 
  • Tanks (storage of water, oil, and gas) 
  • Temporary encampments 
  • Warship docks 
Return to the Features Index 

Mining and Excavation Features 
  • Area stripping 
  • Auger mining 
  • Contour stripping 
  • Dredging 
  • Hydraulic mining 
  • Land clearing operations 
  • Open pit mining 
  • Rock quarries 
  • Mine dumps 
  • Mine shafts 
  • Mine tunnels 
  • Oil and gas fields 
  • Quarries 
  • Storage piles 
  • Borrow pits 
  • Gravel, sand, or clay pits 
Return to the Features Index 

Transportation and Communication Features 
  • Abandoned Railroads 
  • Airport facilities 
  • Aprons 
  • Buildings (various) 
  • Hangers 
  • Runways 
  • Taxi ways 
  • Terminals 
  • Airports 
  • Airfields 
  • Heliports 
  • Landing areas 
  • Landing strips 
  • Boat docks and piers 
  • Bus terminals 
  • County or Parish
    • (2 lane) Divided highway 
    • (3 lane) Divided highway 
    • (4 lane) Divided highway 
  • Federal Highways 
    • (2 lane) Divided highway
    • (3 lane) Divided highway 
    • (4 lane) Divided highway 
  • Ferries
  • Foot paths 
  • Fords (river) 
  • Gravel (non-surfaced roads) 
  • Interchanges Jeep trails and woods roads 
  • Lock structures 
  • Overpasses and underpasses 
  • Radio and television towers 
  • Railroad (ROW) 
  • Railroad terminals and switchyards 
  • State highways
    • (2 lane) Divided highway
    • (3 lane) Divided highway
    • (4 lane) Divided highway 
  • Timber yarding 
  • Traffic circles 
  • Trucking terminals 
Return to the Features Index 

Urban Features 
  • Apartment houses 
  • Armories 
  • Athletic fields 
  • Auditoriums 
  • Automobile sales 
  • Bus terminals 
  • Canals 
  • Canals (drainage) 
  • Capitols 
  • Cemeteries 
  • Central Business District 
  • Churches 
  • City blocks 
  • City and Town Halls 
  • Civic centers 
  • Colleges 
  • Community Centers 
  • Country Clubs 
  • Court Houses 
  • Courtyards 
  • Drive-in theaters 
  • Factories 
  • Factory buildings 
  • Garages (storage, and service) 
  • Gasoline stations (service stations) 
  • Golf Courses 
  • Hospitals 
  • Hotels 
  • Industrial complexes 
  • Junkyards 
  • Libraries 
  • Medical Centers 
  • Memorials 
  • Mobile homes 
  • Monuments and statues 
  • Mosques 
  • Motels 
  • Museums 
  • Open areas 
  • Parks and playgrounds 
  • Post Offices 
  • Power plants 
  • Prisons 
  • Private Schools 
  • Public Schools 
  • Race tracks 
    • horse 
    • dog 
    • other 
  • Rapid transit facilities 
  • Recreation areas 
  • Recreational centers 
  • Refineries 
  • Rest Homes 
  • Restaurants 
  • Roller Rinks 
  • Schools (K-12, etc) 
  • Shopping centers 
  • Shopping districts 
  • Stadiums 
  • Stock yards 
  • Tennis Courts 
  • Universities 
  • Vacant lots 
  • Warehouses 
Return to the Features Index 

Water and  Shoreline Features 
  • Abandoned aqueduct, canal, etc. 
  • Aqueduct tunnel 
  • Bare rock 
  • Beaches 
  • Bogs 
  • Canal locks 
  • Canals (navigable) 
  • Coastal bays or inlets 
  • Coral reefs 
  • Deltas 
  • Ditches 
  • Dry lakes or ponds 
  • Elevated aqueduct or conduit 
  • Falls 
  • Fish hatcheries 
  • Flood plains 
  • Gauging stations 
  • Inundated areas 
  • Intermittent lakes or ponds 
  • Lakes (large)
  • Marshes 
  • Mud flats 
  • Perennial lakes or ponds 
  • Perennial streams and rivers 
  • Ponds 
  • Rapids 
  • Sand bars 
  • Sea walls 
  • Shorelines 
  • Sinkholes 
  • Submerged areas 
  • Swamps 
  • Tidal pools 
  • Washes 
  • Water wells 
  • Wetlands 
  • Wooded marsh 
  • Wooded swamps 


Return to the Features Index 

See how features are measured.


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All contents copyright (C) 1993-1999,  D. Fehler  All rights reserved.