50K Topograhical Maps of Vancouver Island

Update... This data can now be found at: Geogratis, in their CanMatrix area. It looks like the Free side won the argument. Everything you can image is now available for easy download, for free.

The rest of this is old news...

The Canadian government prints a lot of maps, including the standard 50K topographical series that most of us grew up with. For a while, there was a government website, called Toporama, where you could download these as large GIFs - available royalty free, even for commercial use.

When I first found this site, three things struck me:
  1. the maps were amazing.
  2. the interface was pathetic. It took forever to find and download a map.
  3. the file structure on the site was very well organised.
So, I whipped up a simple Perl script to grab all the maps for Vancouver Island, all 200 of them, from this very orderly file structure.

The Toporama site has been replaced by a new government server that offers online maps through what amounts to a GIS interface, but the ability to download the 50K maps seems to be gone. However, the original Toporama site is still operational, though I can't find any obvious links to still download the maps.

But, the big surprise is that the maps are still on the server, and you can still download them. Personally, I don't really care... I've downloaded all I want a long time ago. But, I thought other people might be interested, so...

I've created a download page HERE with links to each individual file, at least for Vancouver Island. Get them while you can because I suspect they will disappear at some point.

You can go here to find out which maps cover the area you're interested in.

Here's a small sample of one of the maps available. You should be able to click on it to see the actual resolution.

Here's how they can look after being processed in Ozi Explorer at 50% and 25% zoom.

Rumour has it (and this is just rumour - no facts involved), there is a serious argument going on between two groups of people responsible for government cartography in Canada. One group wants all the data to be publicly accessible while the other groups wants to sell the information. I don't know if this is true, but it sure looks that way when you see how data appears and disappears. Over the last few years, I've collected about 8Gb of mapping data from government FTP servers, and Toporama. Availability seems to come and go; lately, the web-GIS systems seem to be taking over.

I don't like the web-GIS sites because I want the data on my drive, in my applications, where I can mess with it the way I like. Most of the time, I'm in Ozi Explorer with a set of 50K topos that I put together. With my GPS, they make a good combination, better than Garmin's mapsource or anything else I've tried, including ArcView.

Note: the above maps are a derivative work from these 50K topos, as such, I have to say:
"© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved." This means that they own the original data, but I own the derivative. These maps are available for commercial use, for free! Here's a link to the full license agreement.


Anonymous said...

I'm a big ozi-fan. Do you made calibrate maps form this gif-files?

Thank you


Dave said...

Open them in a graphics editor and convert them to BMP first. Then, you can open them in Ozi and calibrate them. The maps follow a regular lat/long pattern: for the 50k series, each map covers .5 degrees of Longitude and .25 degrees of Latitude.

Once calibrated, use can use Ozi's OZF converter if you like. By choosing just a few zoom levels (10, 25, 50, 100 for example) you can get great looking maps.

I've gone through a long process to get the maps I use. I took the toporama maps, converted them to BMP, stitched them together into larger maps (6 of the original maps put into one file), and calibrated them. This was a lot of work, especially the stitching. Doing this left me working with very large files.

If I were to do it again, I think I would use the Canmatrix maps and just calibrate both the 250K and 50K series into OZF maps. That way, if I wanted to see a larger area, I'd just use the 250K map, If I wanted detail, I'd switch to the appropriate 50K map. Ozi would make this very easy to do.

Hope this helps,


Anonymous said...

Thank you David,
this helps a lot!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much David for your time and curiosity from us Islanderiders