Map Viewer Tutorial

Any time you use one of Explore Natural Communities' park maps, you're using the Map Viewer. The Map Viewer is simple to use, whether you're at your desk or on the go! 

See where you are in the park, find and follow a hike, and discover what's along your path. Listen to a podcast, or dig deeper for photos and details about natural communities, geology, and more.

Learn More

To open a park map, go to Parks & Places, and tap the blue globe icon for any of the parks that have one. Now, get the most out of the Map Viewer!

Explore this page:

Sneak Peek

To open a Map Viewer, go to Parks & Places, choose a location of interest, and click on its blue globe icon. Here's a sneak peek at a few things you can do with the Map Viewer:

  • See where you are while in the park.
  • Find suggested Hikes.
  • Learn about any location in the park by clicking or tapping on it.
  • Display or hide a wealth of map features, or adjust their transparency.
  • Visit good places to see examples of natural communities.
  • Enjoy podcasts or a video (or their transcripts) about places or features in the park.

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Quick Navigation Tips

  • Click or tap the Find my location icon [target symbol] on the left side of the screen to find your location on the map.
  • Click or tap anywhere on the map to see what there is to learn about that spot. Then click or tap Details for more information about a feature.
  • Zoom in and out using the plus and minus signs on the left side of the screen, or by pinching the screen with your fingers. Drag the mouse or drag your finger across the screen to move around in the map.
  • Watch the map scale and the Latitude/Longitude at the bottom of the screen change as you zoom and move around in the map.
  • Click or tap the home icon [house symbol] on the left of the screen to return to the default map view.
  • Search for park features like “natural communities,” “bathrooms,” or “trails” using the Search button [magnifying glass] on the left side of the screen.
  • Use the Layers/Legend menu to view the legend or customize the map. (Click or tap Open Layers/Legend if button is visible at top or top right of screen. On larger screens, the Layers/Legend menu may already be open.) You can choose which kind of map details you’re interested in, or switch the background map.
  • Try out tools such as Measure/Analyze, Export, or Find a Hike (currently only available for Rock Creek Park). On larger screens, click or tap the tool at top of screen. On smaller screens, click or tap Tools at top of screen.)

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Find My Location in the Park

While in the park, you can follow where you are on the map.

How to Use: Click or tap the Find my location icon [target symbol] on the left side of the screen.

Tips:

  • Your browsing application may ask you to turn location services on for this to work. You can do this by going into your browser or device settings.
  • Navigate trails with the help of this feature.
  • Click or tap your location on the map to discover something about where you are.

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Learn About a Location

Click or tap a location on the map to explore what can be found there.

How to Use: Click or tap anywhere on the map, within the park. A results box will pop up with information on every feature visible on the map near that point. In the results box, turn on Include Hidden Layers if you want more results.

What You’ll See: The point you tap will appear on the map as a dot with a red circle, and the first feature your point touches will be highlighted in blue.

On larger screens, the results box will appear across the bottom of the screen, with tabs near the top of the box for each layer (category) of results. Clicking a feature under one of the tabs will highlight it in blue on the map. Click Show and try out the options. Click Details to open a details box about that feature. You can minimize the results box or details box to see more of the map. (On larger screens, you can also Close Layers/Legend at top right of screen to see more of the map.)

On smaller screens, if you get more than one result in the results box that pops up, swipe right or left, or use the arrows to scroll through them. Or, use the numbered dropdown in the upper right of the results box to quickly scan and select results of interest. When you get results from more than one layer, you can use the menu at the center top of the box to filter results by layer. As you move between features, each feature will be highlighted on the map. Tap or click Show and try out the options. Tap or click Details to open a details page, which you can exit (X) or minimize (–) by tapping the buttons at the top of the screen. 

Tips:

  • Too many results? Zoom in on the map and click or tap again to narrow the area of your search. (You can also turn off Include Hidden Layers to limit results.)
  • Curious what plant you're seeing in the park? Tap your location on the map to find the natural community you may be in. Tap Details in the results box to view pictures (if available) or follow a link (if available) to see some of the plants in that natural community and try to find a match.

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Search for Park Features

Search for park features by name, using generic or specific names.

How to Use: Click or tap the Search button [magnifying glass] on the left side of the screen. In the search bar, type a word or phrase (such as “swamp,” “bathroom,” “natural communities,” “visitor center,” or “White Cliff Trail”) and tap the search button again. The search results box will open. (Read Learn About a Location to understand how a similar results box functions.)

Tips:

  • Try a more generic term (“trail”) if you cannot find what you are looking for (“White Cliff Trail”).
  • Too many results? Filter them! Before typing in your search term, click or tap the arrow button on the left side of the search bar. Make a selection from the dropdown menu. Now when you type your term, you will only see results in that category (layer).

Example: What if you’re only looking for Natural Communities that contain your search term? First click or tap the arrow button on the left of the search bar, and select “Natural Communities” from the dropdown menu. Then type your search term (“maple”, “oak”, “floodplain”, “dry”). You will now see results only for Natural Communities that containing your search term.

  • Not sure exactly what to search for? Start typing into the search box and see what autofill options appear in the dropdown list.

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Customize the Map

Tailor the map to your interests.

Overview: Use the Layers/Legend menu (top right of screen) to hide or display map features; to select a background map (satellite map, street map, etc.); or to see a legend.

Turn Layers On/Off (Hide or Display Map Features)

Show features of interest on the map, or hide clutter. “Natural Communities,” “Audio Podcasts,” “Good Places to See Natural Communities,” and “Trails” are examples of map layers that can be turned on or off. 

How to Use: Click or tap Open Layers/Legend if button is visible (top right of screen). (On larger screens, the Layers/Legend menu may already be open.) Then click or tap Layers On/Off. Toggle the on/off slider beside each layer name to display or hide them on the map.

Tip:

  • Back in the map, zoom in on an area of interest, and click or tap a symbol to learn about what it represents.
  • Switch your main data layer using the menu at the top of the Layers On/Off tab. This layer can also be turned on or off, as well as changed in transparency.
  • You can still see natural communities even when the main data layer is showing something else by turning on the Natural Communities (Outlines) layer.
  • The Legend displays only the layers that are turned on.

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Change Basemaps

Select from several background maps (basemaps).

How to Use: Click or tap Open Layers/Legend if button is visible (top right of screen). (On larger screens, the Layers/Legend menu may already be open.) Then click or tap Change Basemap. Select a background for your map.

Tip:

  • Within park boundaries, the Natural Communities layer (or another one) may be obscuring the basemap. Try playing with the transparency slider bar: Open the Layers/Legend menu (if necessary), then click or tap Layers On/Off. Near the top, slide the Transparency bar to the right to reveal the basemap beneath.

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Show Legend

Identify what the symbols and colors displayed on the map mean.

How to Use: Click or tap Open Layers/Legend if button is visible (top right of screen). (On larger screens, the Layers/Legend menu may already be open.) Then click or tap Show Legend.

Tips:

  • For natural communities, there are so many colors in the legend that it can be hard to match them to the map. Zoom in on the map and tap an area of interest to identify its natural community instead. Or, to find every instance of a particular natural community on the map, Search for the community by name. (See Search for Park Features.)
  • The legend updates to match only the layers displayed on the map. So, for example, if you turn off all the layers, the legend will be quite sparse.

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Tools

Find hiking trails, analyze areas in the park, and export your map.

Find a Hike Tool (Rock Creek Park)

Need ideas for a hike? Choose from among several suggestions, ranging from fairly short hikes to day-hikes that are several miles long. This tool is currently available only for Rock Creek Park.

How to Use: On larger screens, click or tap the Find Hikes tool button (top of screen). On smaller screens, tap the Tools button (top of screen), then tap Find Hikes Tool.

In the Find a Hike box that pops up, select Show All Hikes for an overview of what terrain the hikes cover. Or, select a specific hike and tap Details to learn more about it.

What You’ll See: Selecting Show All Hikes in the Find a Hike box shows you an overview of all hikes in the park in various shades of pink. Selecting a specific hike from the drop-down menu highlights it in blue. If you click Details, a box pops up with information about that hike, including length and difficulty.

Tips:

  • While a hike is selected, tap the map along different parts of the hike to see what features it passes through. Or, use the Measure tool to trace part or all of the hike and see everything the trail passes through. (See Measure/Analyze Tool)
  • Select “No selection” in the Find a Hike box to turn off all hikes. (You can also turn off Hikes in Layers On/Off.)
  • You can export your map to a PDF (or other format).
  • The Find My Location feature (target symbol, left side of screen) is helpful when navigating a hiking route.

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Measure/Analyze Tool

Draw polygons or lines on the map to measure area or distance, and to see what features fall within that area or along that line.

How to Use: On larger screens, click or tap the Measure/Analyze button (top of screen). On smaller screens, click or tap Tools (top of screen), then tap Measure/Analyze Tool.

In the Measure/Analyze box that pops up, you have 2 choices: Select Area to draw a closed shape, or Distance to draw a line (curved or straight). Start drawing by clicking/tapping the map once, then click/tap again or drag your mouse or finger along the map to draw your polygon or line. Double-click (or double-tap) to end. Measure Again to draw a new line or polygon.

What You’ll See: The Area or Distance you just measured is shown. Change the measurement units in the drop-down menu beside the number (Sq. Miles or Miles is default). Dig deeper by selecting See What’s Here, or Measure Again to draw a new line or polygon. See What’s Here lists the features that fall within the polygon or along the line you drew.

Tip:

  • If you’re planning a hike, try tracing the path with the Distance tool to see what natural features you’ll pass through.

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Export Map Tool

Export a PDF or image file of your customized map.

How to Use: On larger screens, click or tap the Export button (upper right of screen). On smaller screens, click or tap Tools (top of screen), then select Export Tool. Choose from Layout (map with legend, scale bar) or Map Only (no legend or graphics). Give your map a name, adjust the size and layout of your map, and choose one of the file formats (PDF is default). Once you have all of your details set, click Export at the bottom of the tool. The file name for your map will appear under Exported Files, with a cloud icon beside the name when it is ready to view. Be sure to open your new map (click/tap file name under Exported Files) and print or download it if you wish to save it!

Tips:

  • Customize your map before you export it by changing the basemap, turning layers on and off, and panning to your area of interest.
  • Advanced Options allows you to set a fixed scale and resolution, assign your map an Author and Copyright, and gives you the option to include attribution  (in Map Only mode) or legend (in Layout mode).
  • Recommended resolution for printing is 300 DPI (dots per inch). If you only plan on viewing your map on screen, then keeping it at 72 or 96 DPI will give you a smaller file size with good resolution.
  • Important! Explore Natural Communities will not save your exported maps. Print or download your exported map(s) before closing out of the map viewer.

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