How To Use The National Map Services

Users are encouraged to integrate within their own mapping applications any and all of the map services offered through The National Map. There are no use restrictions on these services. Content is limited to the United States and Territories. Additional information can be found in the FAQ relating to Terms of Use and Licensing.

Base Maps

The six (6) tile cached base maps offer excellent performance across all scales (from world to 1:18,000) in a simple-to-use, single-layer map service. The Blank, Hill Shade and Imagery base map services provide a background free of cartographic features and labels, while the Topo, ImageryTopo and HydroNHD base map services offer a rich cartographic blending of scale-dependent sources to provide a complete, multi-scale base map capability within a single map service layer. More information about the content of these base maps can be found within the: TNM Base Maps document.

We provide a number of simple examples which demonstrate how to integrate these base map services within many popular javascript mapping APIs:

Other samples can be found at our examples page.

Information about integration with mobile applications can be found in the USGS Topo Data on the Go news release.

Large Scale Base Map Dynamic Services

If it is desirable to provide mapping at larger scales (below 1:18k) we provide dynamic large-scale services that correspond to the tile cached base maps. The following table illustrates these relationships.

Base Map Fail-over Strategies

We continue to work toward making our map services as reliable as possible. The National Mapbase map services were initially migrated to a VM-based architecture that provided a replicable and scalable platform. This VM migration was the first step toward recently enabling these base map services to be migrated to a cloud-hosted environment. We currently respond to over 2 million requests per day with these services.

Our primary data center is located in Denver, CO and an automated fail-over instance is located in Rolla, MO in the event that a catastrophic failure occurs at our primary site.

However, both data centers are not staffed for 24/7/365 support; we cannot guarantee up-time outside of core government work hours. It is therefore recommended that users plan a fail-over strategy that will meet the specific requirements of your application.

With some of our own clients we have built in a service check that checks to see if the primary Base Map service is available. If unavailable, the client switches to a secondary base map service until the primary service is restored. A simple HTTP HEAD or GET request can be used to check for availability and take action if necessary to switch an alternate base map.

For USGS users the ESRI base maps provide an alternative base map if, for any reason, The National Map services are not available.


We welcome your feedback on the usefulness of these products and/or to offer suggestions for improvements. If you wish to contact us, please use our Contact Us Form.