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National Park Maps

This Digital Library Contains 1000 National Park Maps

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National Park Maps

From barren deserts to lush forests, America's National Park System contains some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes on earth. If you don't have time to visit every NPS property, this digital map database reported by City Lab can help you explore them from the comfort of home. 

Since 2013, one park ranger has uploaded 1053 high-resolution national park maps to npmaps.com. Matt Holly, an employee of the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate in Colorado, was inspired to launch the unofficial site as a way of organizing the service's vast body of cartography. On the website he writes:

I created this site because I love visiting national parks and planning trips by poring over a classic national park map. However, I’ve always found it time-consuming to visit each park’s web page and use an embedded map viewer or muddle through the website to find a nice printable map. So I’ve done the dirty work for you and collected maps of each park and hosted them here.

The National Park System is composed of 411 protected areas. The library contains maps from around 100 of them, and includes camping maps, trail maps, nautical charts, and local geology guides. 

One of the most exciting aspects of the database is that every map you see is in the public domain. That means that visitors are free to download the maps and use them as they please. Many of the same maps can be found on NPS's official webpages, but Holly takes extra steps to make his versions stand out. He boosts image quality while removing any superfluous text, and each map is accompanied by a summary. 

Whether you're planning a trip for the National Park Service's centennial this fall, or you're just a sucker for good map porn, the collection is worth checking out. You can view some stunning examples from the database below.

Carlsbad Cavern Vintage Map Postcard

Crater Lake Illustrated Map

Detail Map of St. John

Zion Canyon (North) Topographic Map

Devil's Garden Hiking Trail Map (Arches National Park)

[h/t City Lab]

All images courtesy of National Park Maps.

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The King of Kong © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery
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geography
The Mountains of Kong: The Majestic West African Range That Never Existed
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The King of Kong © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

If you look closely at a 19th century map of Africa, you’ll notice one major way that it differs from contemporary maps, one that has nothing to do with changing political or cartographical styles. More likely than not, it features a mountain range that no longer appears on modern maps, as WIRED explains. Because it never existed in the first place.

A 19th century map of West Africa
From Milner's Descriptive Atlas, 1850

The “Mountains of Kong” appeared on almost every major commercial map of Africa in the 1800s, stretching across the western part of the continent between the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger River. This mythical east-west mountain range is now the subject of an art exhibition at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery.

In "Mountains of Kong," stereoscopic images by artist Jim Naughten—the same format that allowed Victorians with wanderlust to feel like they’d seen the world—reveal his view of the world of wildlife that might have existed inside the imagined mountains. As the gallery describes it, “he imagines a fictitious record made for posterity and scientific purposes during an expedition of the mountain range.” We’ve reproduced the images here, but to get the full effect, you’ll have to go to the gallery in person, where you can view them in 3D with a stereoscope (like the ones you no doubt played with as a kid).

Toucans fight a snake in two almost-identical side-by-side images.
The Toucans © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Naughten created the images by taking two photographs for each, and moving the camera over some 3 inches for the second photo to make a stereoscopic scene. The landscapes were created by shooting images of Scottish and Welsh mountains and dioramas in natural history museums, using Photoshop to change the hues of the images to make them seem more otherworldly. His blue-and-pink-hued images depict fearsome apes, toucans sparring with snakes, jagged peaks, and other scenes that seem both plausible and fantastical at the same time.

The Mountains of Kong appeared in several hundred maps up until the 20th century. The first, in 1798, was created by the prominent geographer James Rennell to accompany a book by Scottish explorer Mungo Park about his first journey to West Africa. In it, Park recounts gazing on a distant range, and “people informed me, that these mountains were situated in a large and powerful kingdom called Kong.” Rennell, in turn, took this brief observation and, based on his own theories about the course of the Niger River, drew a map showing the mountain range that he thought was the source of the river. Even explorers who later spent time in the area believed the mountains existed—with some even claiming that they crossed them.

Two colobuses stand in a tree on a mountaintop.
The Colobus © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

The authority of the maps wasn’t questioned, even by those who had been to the actual territory where they were depicted as standing. Writers began to describe them as “lofty,” “barren,” and “snow-covered.” Some said they were rugged granite peaks; others described them as limestone terraces. In almost all cases, they were described as “blue.” Their elevation ranged from 2500 feet to 14,000 feet, depending on the source. Over the course of the 19th century, “there was a general southward ‘drift’ in the location,” as one pair of scholars put it.

Though geographers cast some doubt on the range’s existence as time went on, the Mountains of Kong continued to appear on maps until French explorer Louis-Gustave Binger’s Niger River expedition between 1887 and 1889, after which Binger definitively declared their nonexistence.

By 1891, the Mountains of Kong began dropping off of maps, though the name Kong still appeared as the name of the region. By the early 20th century, the mountains were gone for good, fading into the forgotten annals of cartographic history.

[h/t WIRED]

All images courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

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Tamtik
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Design
Chocolate Maps Turn the Streets of Famous Cities Into Edible Art
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Chocolate map of Tel Aviv.
Tamtik

At first glance, the gourmet chocolate squares below look like works of modern art. But if you’re familiar with the streets of London, Tel Aviv, or New York City, you might notice that the abstract designs actually look a lot like the maps of these iconic cities.

According to My Modern Met, Tamtik chocolate has partnered with online retailer Nisnas Industries to bring their gorgeous, edible maps to Kickstarter. Each creation is made by pouring liquid dark chocolate into a mold of an urban landscape. Once it has hardened, the treat shows every block, park, and city street as fine chocolate contours and intricate geometric shapes. The three varieties—London, Tel Aviv, and New York City—are each crafted by chocolatiers from their respective cities, further connecting the products to the places they represent.

Making of chocolate city map.
Tamtik

Each chocolate map comes wrapped in artisanal packaging, making it the perfect gift to remind a loved one of their favorite city. There’s also nothing stopping you from opening the box and enjoying the delectable artwork on your own.

Tamtik is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to make these masterpieces, with more than a month left to reach their $10,000 goal. You can reserve a chocolate city map of your own with a pledge of $45 or more. A pledge of just $1 allows you to vote on which city Tamtik should add to their lineup next.

Opening a box that contains a chocolate city map.
Tamtik

[h/t My Modern Met]

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