National Topographic System

Last updated

The National Topographic System or NTS is the system used by Natural Resources Canada for providing general purpose topographic maps of the country. NTS maps are available in a variety of scales, the standard being 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 scales. [1] The maps provide details on landforms and terrain, lakes and rivers, forested areas, administrative zones, populated areas, roads and railways, as well as other human-made features. [2] These maps are currently used by all levels of government and industry for forest fire and flood control (as well as other environmental issues), depiction of crop areas, right-of-way, real estate planning, development of natural resources and highway planning. To add context, land area outside Canada is depicted on the 1:250,000 maps, but not on the 1:50,000 maps.



Topographic mapping in Canada was originally undertaken by many different agencies, with the Canadian Army’s Intelligence Branch forming a survey division to create a more standardized mapping system in 1904. The indexing system used today was established in 1923, and the map catalogue officially became the National Topographic System in 1926. [3]


NTS zones and map series. Legend:
.mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}
High Arctic zone
Arctic zone
Southern zone NTS Zones and Map Series Numbers.png
NTS zones and map series. Legend:
  High Arctic zone
  Arctic zone
  Southern zone

The subdivision scheme that the National Topographic System uses is known as the National Tiling System, [4] which also functions as a coarse method of geocoding. This scheme initially splits the country into three major "zones", each spanning a different range of latitudes. The "Southern zone" covers latitudes between 40°N and 68°N, the "Arctic zone" covers latitudes between 68°N and 80°N, and the "High Arctic zone" covers latitudes between 80°N and 88°N. The National Tiling System is capable of covering all points with latitudes ranging from 40°N to 80°N and longitudes from 48°W to 144°W, as well as all points with latitudes ranging from 80°N to 88°N and longitudes from 56°W to 136°W.

Each National Tiling System zone is divided into individual 1:1,000,000 scale "map series", denoted by a number indicating its general position in the country (e.g., 30); which each map series divided into several 1:250,000 scale "map areas", denoted by a letter (e.g., M); and each map area divided into 1:50,000 scale "map sheets", denoted by a number (e.g., 13). These numbers and letters are then combined to form a unique designator for a map sheet, in this case, 30M13 Bolton , identifying a map sheet which includes the city of Vaughan, Ontario. Some map sheets are further sub-divided at their central meridian into two 1:50,000 scale "half-sheets", with an E or W appended onto the map sheet designator.

All map series span four degrees of latitude, but each spans a different range of longitudes depending on the zone it is located in. Map series in the Southern and Arctic zones span eight degrees of longitude, while those in the High Arctic zone span sixteen degrees of longitude. In the Southern and Arctic zones, the National Tiling System numbers map series by latitude and longitude. After padding a map series number to three digits using leading zeroes, the last digit in a map series number indicates a specific range of latitudes, and the number formed by the other digits indicates a specific range of longitudes. In the High Arctic zone, map series numbers are three digits, with the first two digits of each number inherited from the two map series in the Arctic zone immediately to the south.

Southern zone 1:250,000
map area lettering scheme
Arctic/High Arctic zone 1:250,000
map area lettering scheme
1:50,000 map sheet

In the Southern zone, map series are divided into sixteen map areas, each assigned a letter from A through P, while in the Arctic and High Arctic zones, they are split into eight map areas, each assigned a letter from A through H. The letters are assigned in a boustrophedon pattern starting with the southeasternmost map area in a series.

Each map area in turn is split into sixteen map sheets, numbered from 1 through 16 in an identical boustrophedon pattern to the map areas. And one result of the overall design of the National Tiling System is that the longitude span of a map sheet essentially doubles at a zone boundary.

Each of these 1:50,000 sheets, in turn, was at one time split into eight 1:25,000 scale map sub-sheets, lettered as lower-case a to h, using the same boustrophedon pattern as the smaller-scale map areas and sheets. These 1:25,000 scale maps were produced from the 1960s to about 1975, then abandoned, and liquidated in the 1980s (along with the scattered coverage of the 1:500,000 and 1:125,000 scale).

Not all National Topographic System maps strictly follow the National Tiling System's linear grid. Some maps also cover land in an area which would otherwise be covered by an adjacent map sheet, simply because the latter area does not contain enough land in Canada to warrant a separate printing. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Topographic map</span> Medium to large scale map that shows a precise map of the terrain

In modern mapping, a topographic map or topographic sheet is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief features, usually using contour lines, but historically using a variety of methods. Traditional definitions require a topographic map to show both natural and artificial features. A topographic survey is typically based upon a systematic observation and published as a map series, made up of two or more map sheets that combine to form the whole map. A topographic map series uses a common specification that includes the range of cartographic symbols employed, as well as a standard geodetic framework that defines the map projection, coordinate system, ellipsoid and geodetic datum. Official topographic maps also adopt a national grid referencing system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Circle of latitude</span> Geographic notion

A circle of latitude or line of latitude on Earth is an abstract east–west small circle connecting all locations around Earth at a given latitude coordinate line.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Projected coordinate system</span> Cartesian geographic coordinate system

A projected coordinate system – also called a projected coordinate reference system, planar coordinate system, or grid reference system – is a type of spatial reference system that represents locations on Earth using Cartesian coordinates (x, y) on a planar surface created by a particular map projection. Each projected coordinate system, such as "Universal Transverse Mercator WGS 84 Zone 26N," is defined by a choice of map projection (with specific parameters), a choice of geodetic datum to bind the coordinate system to real locations on the earth, an origin point, and a choice of unit of measure. Hundreds of projected coordinate systems have been specified for various purposes in various regions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ordnance Survey National Grid</span> System of geographic grid references used in Great Britain

The Ordnance Survey National Grid reference system (OSGB), also known as British National Grid (BNG), is a system of geographic grid references used in Great Britain, distinct from latitude and longitude.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geologic map</span> Special-purpose map to show geological features

A geologic map or geological map is a special-purpose map made to show various geological features. Rock units or geologic strata are shown by color or symbols. Bedding planes and structural features such as faults, folds, are shown with strike and dip or trend and plunge symbols which give three-dimensional orientations features.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system</span> Map projection system

The Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) is a map projection system for assigning coordinates to locations on the surface of the Earth. Like the traditional method of latitude and longitude, it is a horizontal position representation, which means it ignores altitude and treats the earth surface as a perfect ellipsoid. However, it differs from global latitude/longitude in that it divides earth into 60 zones and projects each to the plane as a basis for its coordinates. Specifying a location means specifying the zone and the x, y coordinate in that plane. The projection from spheroid to a UTM zone is some parameterization of the transverse Mercator projection. The parameters vary by nation or region or mapping system.

The World Geographic Reference System (GEOREF) is a geocode, a grid-based method of specifying locations on the surface of the Earth. GEOREF is essentially based on the geographic system of latitude and longitude, but using a simpler and more flexible notation. GEOREF was used primarily in aeronautical charts for air navigation, particularly in military or inter-service applications, but it is rarely seen today. However, GEOREF can be used with any map or chart that has latitude and longitude printed on it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States National Grid</span> Multi-purpose grid reference system used in the United States

The United States National Grid (USNG) is a multi-purpose location system of grid references used in the United States. It provides a nationally consistent "language of location", optimized for local applications, in a compact, user friendly format. It is similar in design to the national grid reference systems used in other countries. The USNG was adopted as a national standard by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) of the US Government in 2001.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Maps of Switzerland</span> Series of official Swiss maps

The National Maps of Switzerland, also referred to as the Swisstopo maps, are a set of official map series designed, edited and distributed by Swisstopo, the Swiss Federal Office of Topography. Each map series is based on an oblique, conformal, cylindrical projection, with a Swiss Coordinate system. All maps are updated in a complete cycle of about six years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geohash</span> Public domain geocoding invented in 2008

Geohash is a public domain geocode system invented in 2008 by Gustavo Niemeyer which encodes a geographic location into a short string of letters and digits. Similar ideas were introduced by G.M. Morton in 1966. It is a hierarchical spatial data structure which subdivides space into buckets of grid shape, which is one of the many applications of what is known as a Z-order curve, and generally space-filling curves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Instituto Geográfico Nacional (Spain)</span>

The Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN), or National Geographic Institute is a Spanish government agency, dependent on the Spanish Ministry of Public Works. It is the national mapping agency for Spain, together with the Centro Nacional de Información Geográfica (CNIG).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ordnance Survey</span> National mapping agency for Great Britain

The Ordnance Survey (OS) is the national mapping agency for Great Britain. The agency's name indicates its original military purpose, which was to map Scotland in the wake of the Jacobite rising of 1745. There was also a more general and nationwide need in light of the potential threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. Since 1 April 2015, the Ordnance Survey has operated as Ordnance Survey Ltd, a government-owned company, 100% in public ownership. The Ordnance Survey Board remains accountable to the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology. It was also a member of the Public Data Group.

The 68th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 68 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane, in the Arctic. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia and North America.

The 80th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 80 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane, and 10 degrees south of the North Pole, in the Arctic. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia, the Arctic Ocean and North America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National mapping agency</span> Organisation that produces maps and geographic information of a country

A national mapping agency is an organisation, usually publicly owned, that produces topographic maps and geographic information of a country. Some national mapping agencies also deal with cadastral matters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States Geological Survey</span> Scientific agency of the United States government

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), founded as the Geological Survey, is an agency of the United States government whose work spans the disciplines of biology, geography, geology, and hydrology. The agency was founded on March 3, 1879, to study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The agency also makes maps of extraterrestrial planets and moons based on data from U.S. space probes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Map series</span>

A map series is a group of topographic or thematic charts or maps usually having the same scale and cartographic specifications, and with each sheet appropriately identified by its publisher as belonging to the same series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Survey of Pakistan</span>

Survey of Pakistan is the sole national mapping and land surveying government agency of Pakistan. Its head of department is titles as "Surveyor General of Pakistan".

The Open Location Code (OLC) is a geocode based in a system of regular grids for identifying an area anywhere on the Earth. It was developed at Google's Zürich engineering office, and released late October 2014. Location codes created by the OLC system are referred to as "plus codes".

The Arani, also known as Araniar or Araniyar, is a 108 km long river in India. It flows through the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.


  1. "National-topographic-system-maps". 29 May 2007.
  2. "National Topographic System Maps". 29 May 2007.
  3. "About The Maps". Ontario Council of University Libraries. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  4. Government of Canada - Geospatial Data Extraction. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  5. Indexes of the National Topographic System of Canada - See "Indexes in PDF format"