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Maps Research Guide

A compilation of print and online resources on how to locate and use maps.

Maps of Montana in the Mansfield Library

The Mansfield Library and Archives and Special Collections hold wide variety of Montana maps ranging from historical to current. Examples include: topographic maps, orthophoto quads, geologic and hydrologic maps, National Forest and Wilderness maps, Forest Health Protection (PEST) maps, BLM Surface (land ownership) and Mineral Management maps, and Sanborn Company fire insurance maps.

The Indexed, annotated cartobibliography of the University of Montana Mansfield Library historical map collection (1983), which is available in the Montana Room, is a useful, albeit dated, subject guide for historic map searches. Patrons requesting maps by subject term—e.g. Lewis and Clark, fur trade, or Indian reservations—may find the cartobibliography a helpful tool. Call number: 912.78 X M287i

For more Montana map resources (Sanborn, GIS, aerial photo, scientific, etc.), please navigate to those specific pages of this guide.

Montana Geological and Hydrologic Maps

Image of geologic map

According to the USGS, geologic maps use a combination of lines, symbols, and colors to show the composition and structure of earth materials and their distribution across and beneath the Earth's surface. They generally show bedrock formations like granite or limestone, sediment deposited by glaciers or rivers, and structures like folds and faults. Geologic maps can be used to identify geologic hazards, locate natural resources, and facilitate land-use planning. Access this USGS publication for information on color and symbol coding.

Use the library's online catalog, OneSearch, to located geologic and hydrologic maps, as well as the USGS paper indices. consult the following resources to identify map call numbers:

USGS paper indices are located on Level 1 of the Mansfield Library in the Map Reference Area.

  • Publications from 1879-2000  (call # MAP REF I 19.14:)
  • Publication from 1978-2002   (call # MAP REF I 19.14/4
  • Publications from July 2003-present (USGS Publications Warehouse)
  • Guide to U.S. Government Maps : Geologic and Hydrologic Maps 1928-1979, 1986 and 1992 (call # MAP REF 557.3 X G946
  • A Cartobibliography of Separately Published U.S. Geological Survey Special Maps and River Surveys (call # MAP REF 912.73 X S795c)

image of Montana GIS web portal

Natural Resource Maps

Water-Related Maps

Image of Water map


Air Quality Maps

screenshot of Today's Air webpage

Maps of Other Natural Resources

image of Natural Heritage Map viewer webpage

National Forest, Parks, and Wilderness Maps

Image of map of Flathead National Forest

National Forest, Parks, and Wilderness Area maps for Montana fall into the categories of historical and current. These maps show trails, recreation areas, logging roads, streams, lakes and rivers. The most current editions of these maps contain travel plan information, restrictions, and points of interest.

National Forest maps for other areas of the U.S. are available on Level 1.

Forest Health Protection Annual Aerial Detection Survey (PEST maps)

Image of a Pest Map of Wisdom Montana

Forest Health Protection Annual Aerial Detection Survey maps, also referred to as "PEST maps," are detection and damage survey maps of insects and disease in Montana. These maps are produced by the US Forest Service, Northern Region.

Physical Copies

Archives and Special Collections holds a full set of PEST maps produced from 1999-2007 in the Montana Room. Call number:  G4241 .K5 [year].U5.

Digital Copies

Digital PEST maps from 2008, 2011-2017 are available to view and download by clicking on this link.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) - General Land Office (GLO) Maps

Image public land survey map

Boundary maps of the Territory and State of Montana were produced by the General Land Office (GLO) beginning in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century. The GLO was part of The Department of the Interior and then absorbed into the BLM in 1946. Survey plats are the graphic drawing of the boundaries created by each survey and contain the official acreage used in the legal description of the public lands. Plats are critical historic documents that can help researchers locate the land referenced in a land patent's legal land description (i.e. Meridian, Township, Range, and Section/Block).

BLM Surface and Mineral Management Maps

Image of SME map for the Big Snowy Mountains

The BLM  produces Surface Management Edition (SME) (also called land status or land ownership) maps for Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. These maps are available in a surface edition (which shows surface ownership) and a surface/mineral edition (which shows both surface and federal mineral ownership). Not all maps are available in both editions. The scale is 1:100,000; each map covers approximately 1700 square miles and most maps are topographic.

BLM maps for Montana are available in the Montana Room on Level 4. Recent years of BLM maps for the rest of the U.S. are available on Level 1.

To locate a map:

  • Determine the appropriate quadrant by doing one of the following:
    • View a pdf of the index (listed below),
    • Visit USGS TopoView and limiting your search to 1:100,000 (30" x 60" series) scale, or
    • Look at the physical index available on Level 1 (Call number: I 53.11/4:M 76/CAT Vertical File Large).
  • Look up the quad name in the library's online catalog, OneSearch, to find the call number and the location. (Don't forget to limit your "Resource Type" to "maps".)