National Park Service

Inventory & Monitoring (I&M)

Base Cartography Data

Composite image mosaic of 2009 NAIP imagery for Arches National Park.
Composite image mosaic of 2009 NAIP imagery for Arches National Park.


The Base Cartography inventory is one of 12 core inventories identified by the National Park Service as essential to effectively manage park natural resources.

Cartographic information from this inventory provides geographic information systems (GIS) data layers to National Park resource management staff, researchers, and research partners. The inventory acquires, processes, and distributes GIS data that complement other inventory projects, as well as many GIS mapping and analysis projects throughout the Park Service.

Base cartographic inventory products are used by the National Park Service and others for many different applications, ranging from making maps, to spatial data verification, to designing monitoring sampling frameworks. For example, digital orthophotos (see graphic), provide credible, high-resolution spatial information that can be used to verify the spatial accuracy of cartographic products. The thematic information content in existing digital imagery and elevation data sets are very useful for analysis to ensure the range of landscape conditions is reflected in monitoring sampling designs.


The program delivers customized geospatial products including:

  1. Digital Elevation Models (DEM) - digital files consisting of terrain elevations for ground positions at regularly spaced horizontal intervals.
  2. Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quadrangles (DOQQ) - A digital orthophoto quadrangle is a computer-generated image of an aerial photograph in which image displacement caused by terrain relief and camera tilts has been removed.
  3. National Elevation Dataset (NED) - designed to provide national elevation data in a seamless form with a consistent datum, elevation unit, and projection.
  4. National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery - geo-referenced imagery acquired during the agricultural growing seasons in the continental U.S.

The final products, when completed, will be kept up-to-date, in a seamless format, and ready for use in ESRI GIS software packages. Some additional derived products are included, such as hillshade, aspect, and slope grids which are created from elevation data.

Status(May, 2012)

This inventory continues to be a work in progress. The Integrated Resource Management Applications system (IRMA) is the primary distribution point for base cartography data. Special requests for data may be made by contacting the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Division staff.

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