All of which illustrates one more advantage of PDFs. You can scale a digital quad up or down to suit your needs, and print out only the bit(s) you want to take with you on the river. You can even make your own strip maps by splicing PDFs together. And that's just the beginning. The free TerraGo Desktop extends the utility of GeoPDFs still further—though if you're a Mac user, you'll have to wait a while. The TerraGo software is currently available only in a Windows version.
What's next? Well, how about…
Maybe you're interested in two rivers on opposite ends of the continent. No problem. Moving on to a new search area is as simple as clicking the "Clear Markers" button. ("Reset Map" will both clear all your markers and return to the original continent-wide display.) Then just navigate to the next destination on your list. It's that easy.
Or is it? Well, I haven't encountered any problems I couldn't solve with the excellent online help, but if that day ever comes, the USGS has a toll-free telephone line. They also do e-mail, and I can vouch for the fact that they're quick to answer inquiries. Customer support simply doesn't get any better than that. So let's give credit where credit is due, shall we? At a time when government is taking a lot of hard knocks, it's only fair to recognize those agencies which give good value for money. And the USGS is surely one.
This wouldn't have surprised John Wesley Powell. His is a name that most paddlers will recognize, the naturalist turned soldier who lost an arm at the Battle of Shiloh and then, when the shooting stopped, went on to map the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. What may be less well known, however, is the fact that, later on in his life, Major Powell became the second director of the USGS, helping to shape a tradition of service that survives to this day. I can think of no better memorial to the indomitable explorer.
If you paddle inland waters, you'll need topographic maps. In fact, they belong in the chart cases of coastal kayakers, too. (But don't forget to bring proper charts, as well.) And since one map is seldom enough, even on day trips, the cost rapidly adds up. Luckily, help is at hand. The US Geological Survey has made you and me an offer we can't afford to refuse. Their GeoPDF program lets us download digital copies of US quads at a truly unbeatable price: free! The result? It's never been easier—or cheaper—to put ourselves on the map. And that's very good news, indeed.
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