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Guide to Historical Maps in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center

A guide to the types and uses of historical maps in SCARC's collections

Historical Sketch

A resource map showing kelp off the Oregon Coast. A resource map shows where certain natural resources – e.g. saleable timber, minerals, stone, and water – are found. Early resource maps may have shown the location of fertile hunting grounds, or fishing or foraging sites. Resources are often represented on the map with symbols or pictographs, or with different colors or shading.


Oregon Timber Tax Maps, 1950-1996
The Oregon Timber Tax Maps consist of more than 4,000 maps and related documents detailing appraisal information for forest taxes. The collection includes annotated township maps, data sheets on timber volume, as well as many other pieces of information regarding the valuation of timbered lands in Oregon during the 1950s-1970s.

Rangeland Resources Department Maps, 1936-1967
The Rangeland Resources Department Maps consist of materials created and assembled by Rangeland Resources faculty and alumni documenting range type surveys and studies in the Lower Powder River basin, Vale District, and Squaw Butte Experimental Range in eastern Oregon. The collection includes detailed range type maps of the Keating Soil Conservation District on the Lower Powder River in Baker County; these maps also include a land ownership overlay and tabulated acreages of different range types, cultivated land, and pasture as well as grazing capacity. These were prepared by E. William (Bill) Anderson of the Soil Conservation Service. One map of range types in the Vale District in eastern Oregon is also part of the collection. Materials created for range studies conducted in the 1930s and 1960s of the Squaw Butte Experiment Range in southeastern Oregon comprise a portion of the collection. Charles E. Poulton was involved in the 1960s studies.

Plans and Profiles of Oregon Rivers, 1923-1971
The Plans and Profiles of Oregon Rivers consist of maps prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey documenting surveys of rivers and streams. The bulk of the collection (181 sheets) is comprised of river plans and profiles; the remainder of the collection (34 sheets) is dam site and reservoir plans. The plans depict topography adjacent to the river or stream, typically to an elevation high enough above the water surface to include the area of proposed reservoir sites, possible canals or conduits, or other structures related to water utilization. The profiles depict the elevation of the stream surface over a given reach of the waterway. The maps include general location maps and depict notable features such as roads, railroads, and landmarks. Some of the dam site and reservoir plans include topographic cross sections of the stream or river at the dam site. Information about the area and capacity of the reservoir are also included on many of these sheets. The collection documents primarily rivers in Oregon; however, rivers and streams in bordering regions of Washington, Idaho, and California that are part of the Columbia, Snake, or Klamath drainages are also part of the collection. Maps of the major tributaries of the Willamette River, including the North and South Santiam and McKenzie Rivers are included. Many coastal rivers, such as the Nehalem, Nestucca, Siletz, Siuslaw, Trask, Umpqua, and Wilson Rivers are also depicted in the collection.

Wetlands Inventory and Survey Maps, circa 1976 - 1990
The Wetlands Inventory and Survey Maps document the National Wetlands Inventory as conducted in the western United States and the central Willamette Valley and Pacific Coast in Oregon. The collection includes two atlases. One atlas depicts the extent of state and local wetlands surveys that had been conducted in 1965-1975. The second atlas shows the types and coverage of aerial photography available for conducting wetlands surveys and inventories. Drafts of wetlands inventory maps for the area from the central Willamette Valley to the coast comprise about half of the collection. These maps document the type and extent of coastal and inland wetlands following the Cowardin Classification System developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1979. The Cowardin system is a hierarchical classification consisting of the major wetlands classes of marine, estuarine, riverine, lacustrine, and palustrine. Details on water flow, substrate, vegetation, flooding, and salinity define subclassifications within the major classes. The maps were prepared primarily by stereoscopic analysis of high-altitude aerial photographs; wetlands were identified based on vegetation, visible hydrology, and geography. Selected sites were examined in the field. All of the maps are blueline prints.

Forest Type Maps of Oregon, circa 1900-1995
The Forest Type Maps of Oregon document forest composition at the county, region, and statewide level in Oregon from 1900 to the mid-1950s. The U.S. Geological Survey prepared the earliest maps at the beginning of the 20th century; the Pacific Northwest Forest Experiment Station and the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Services prepared the forest type maps for the 1930s-1950s. The maps depict the type and quality of timber as well as areas of non-forested or de-forested land. Most of the maps in this collection were prepared in the 1930s-1950s for the Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis Program and other programs focusing on large-scale forest health. The maps depict stand types by species composition, tree diameter, and age as well as noting non-forested lands and recently harvested areas. In addition to this primary information the maps also show the locations of main road systems, county and state boundaries, municipalities, rivers and streams, railroad lines, and note boundaries of townships and ranges.

Donald B. Zobel Collection of Historic Forestry and Vegetation Maps, 1914-1989
The Donald B. Zobel Collection of Historic Forestry and Vegetation Maps consists of maps assembled, annotated, or created by Zobel for his research and teaching in forest ecology and botany. Some of the maps were assembled by William W. Chilcote, his students, and other Botany Department faculty. Most of the maps are of Oregon, including McDonald Forest and the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, and northern California. However, the collection includes maps of forest types in midwestern states, a vegetation map of North America, and map of initial damage from the May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, Washington. The primary topics addressed by the maps are forest types, forest and vegetation cover, timber stands, soils and erosion.  The collection also includes general purpose forest, recreation, and topographic maps. Of particular note are a map of the of road system on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation (1962); a topographic map of the Three Sisters, Oregon, prepared by Edwin T. Hodge (1925); and a 1914 maps of the state of Oregon published by the Oregon State Board of Forestry. A map of the vegetation of North America prepared by John W. Harshberger in the 1910s is also included.

McDonald Forest and Peavy Arboretum Maps, 1934-1993
The McDonald Forest and Peavy Arboretum Maps consist primarily of detailed maps of the Arboretum and forest prepared from the mid-1930s through the early 1940s. The maps document topography, forest site and timber types, and arboretum plantings. The maps depict the forest and arboretum boundaries, roads, streams and lakes, and structures. Of special note are maps depicting land owners in the area as of 1937. Most of the maps are quite detailed; multiple copies of some maps are available. The collection includes one detailed map produced on a pen plotter in 1993 depicting the topography of two tracts in the Soap Creek Valley.

Oregon Department of Forestry Maps, 1914-1985
The Oregon Department of Forestry Maps consist primarily of maps generated in the 1940s-1970s to support the Department's role in fire protection for private, state, and federal forests in Oregon. The maps delineate the boundaries of Forest Protection Districts and their component units throughout the state. The maps provide detailed information about roads surrounding and in the forest landscape, noting the condition of highways, state roads, forest roads, and trails. The maps also depict landscape features such as lakes, streams, springs, summits with elevations, and mines or quarries. Most of the maps in the collection are at 1:125,000 scale. Of special note in the collection are two copies of a color Map of the State of Oregon prepared in 1914 that depicts areas with merchantable timber as well as those that have been cut-over or burned and whether or not they are being re-stocked.

Bureau of Land Management Maps of Oregon, 1944-1993
The Bureau of Land Management Maps of Oregon consist of maps published for use by the public as a guide for outdoor recreation as well as maps prepared for management and oversight of forest lands under the purview of the Bureau. The maps depict the boundaries of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Oregon, master units (primarily in western Oregon), and the extent of national forests. The master unit maps show the locations of O&C Lands (Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands), which are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The maps in the collection range in scale from 1:125,000 to 1:1,000,000 and depict towns and cities, highways and major road systems, and major physiographic features. Some of the maps in the Master Unit Maps series (Series 1, Folder 1) are annotated with the allowable quantity to be harvested and the estimated merchantable volume. The maps depict the location of O&C lands and timber.

National Forests in Oregon Maps, 1910-1989
The National Forests in Oregon Maps consists of maps of national forests in Oregon prepared by the U.S. Forest Service. The collection includes maps of the entire forests, regional maps depicting all the forests in Oregon, some Ranger District maps, and maps of wilderness areas and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Several of the forests extend into California or Washington. The maps provide details such as location, condition, and road numbers for forest roads, campsites and recreational sites, Ranger and lookout stations, key land features, streams, towns in the surrounding vicinity, and main highways in the regions, as well as the National Forests' boundaries. The maps also have the legal townships, ranges and sections, corresponding to the Public Land Survey System.

State of Oregon Maps Collection, 1866-2000
The State of Oregon Maps Collection includes a diverse selection of maps of Oregon. The collection includes single-sheet maps of the full state of Oregon and detailed maps of specific areas. Maps of counties, cities, and regions of the state are included. Topics of the maps include geology, soils, agriculture, recreation, traffic flow, dams and reservoirs, land use, and physiography. Most of the maps depict roads, city and town locations, and political boundaries. City and county maps include street names, buildings, and historical sites. All regions of the state are represented in the collection, including all counties and many cities and towns. Included in the collection is a Mineral Resource Map of Coos County, 1973 (Folder-Item 4.8), and a Preliminary Geothermal Resource Map of Oregon, 1978 (Folder-Item 25.1).

Clair V. Langton Papers, 1914-1973
The Clair V. Langton Papers consist of materials created and assembled by Langton, primarily during his years as faculty member in physical and health education at Oregon State University from 1928 until 1964. The bulk of the collection consists of materials documenting Langton's involvement in state, regional, and national professional organizations, including the Oregon Tuberculosis and Health Association (OTHA), the Western College Physical Education Associaion (WCPEA), and the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER). The Papers also include substantive correspondence as well as course materials, publications, military and personal records, ephemera, and photographs. Box 12 includes an Atlas of World Maps (1943) used by students in the Army Specialized Training Program. Resource maps presented in the atlas depict sea ice and natural vegetation coverage, and iron ore production.

Maps of Washington (State) and the Pacific Northwest, 1863-1994
The Maps of Washington (State) and the Pacific Northwest consist of historic and superseded maps depicting forest resources, geology, public lands and land use, hydroelectric projects, highways, and railroads in Washington and the Pacific Northwest region. Most of the maps in the collection are of all or part of the State of Washington. Regional maps depict Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and, in some cases, California and Wyoming. The maps were created by various U.S. government agencies, State of Washington departments, and private organizations. Maps of national forests and national parks, primarily in Washington, are included in the collection. These include several maps of Mount Rainier and other Cascade peaks, many of which depict the extent of mountain glaciers. Of special note are maps of hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin (Folder-item 4.1 - 4.19). These provide information on dams, reservoirs, irrigation projects, and power transmission. The maps include government publications on projects' status, local newspaper documents, and maps depicting power plant location and the distribution and transmission of electricity.