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Register-Guard: Mapping A True Icon

The Register Guard | Oct. 15, 2013 2:57 a.m. | Updated: Oct. 15, 2013 10:01 a.m.

Contributed By:

Serena Markstrom

The national park itself might be barricaded because of the federal government shutdown, but the most accurate map to date of Crater Lake National Park came out this month, so hikers, bikers and geology enthusiasts can at least start planning their next trip.

The new “Crater Lake Geologic Guide and Recreation Map” is available online and at Nature of the Northwest Information Center, the state-supported retail outlet for the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

“We’re hoping to make people’s experience out there more interesting because we’ve provided some geological information but also show where the trails actually are,” said Ian Madin, chief scientist at the state geology agency, which issued the map. “Often with a topo (topographical) map, the trail wanders up the side of a hill and it’s someplace in there, but you don’t actually know exactly where it is.”

He said the new map is accurate within a couple feet in most cases and is the most accurate map of the portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in the vicinity of Crater Lake.

Several state agencies combined resources to collect the data for the new guide. It is the third in a series of maps of iconic Oregon places made with Lidar, a remote sensing technique that uses light pulses. Lidar stands for light detection and ranging. The state has issued similarly detailed maps of Mount Hood and the Three Sisters area.

The data to create the map weren’t collected solely to offer a better rendition of Crater Lake National Park’s trails, highways and park services, Madin said.

The data cost about $170,000 to collect and also can be used for timber or range management, road maintenance and engineering, stream health, urban feature mapping and natural hazards assessment, he said. All Lidar data collected by the government is in the public domain, and outdoor enthusiasts can go online and create custom Lidar maps for most places in Oregon they wish to travel, he noted.

Madin was one of three main experts who worked on the Crater Lake map for the past year, in addition to working on other projects. Staff designer Daniel Coe added photography to the map.

“There’s a bit of science in that, and there’s a bit of art and design in terms of making that appealing,” Madin said.

The map is more accurate than its predecessors because instead of using aerial images of the landscape and having to estimate where the ground is below trees, it uses a laser scanner mounted on an airplane that measures the shape of the land’s surface.

“We end up with a super-detailed topographic map from which we can remove the trees, so we can see the landscape beneath it,” Madin said. “Ninety percent of the laser reflection that we measure comes off of trees and other vegetation. But the 10 percent that manages to get between the branches and down to the ground is enough…because we just plaster the ground with laser beams.”

The maps cost $6 each, with $4.95 for shipping, and are printed on moisture-resistant paper in color.

The map shows changes in elevation on land by deepening the shade of green the lower the elevation, and it similarly gives details of the bottom of the lake in various shades of blue.

The map also contains extensive sections of text highlighting the area’s geology, including its eruptive history.

“We went through and tried to take out all the four-syllable words,” Madin said. “The geologists have more than enough stuff to work with. We’re really trying to focus a lot of this on making this information more accessible to the general public.”

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