Current topographic maps online

You can view current topographic maps online from the NSW Govt SIX Maps website.  It is then quite simple to copy and print off the sections you want at 1:18000 scale (better for ageing eyesight) or one of the other scales on offer.  Note that the SIX maps are produced by NSW Govt LPI, so they only cover NSW.

However, there are a couple of tricks needed to get the best out of it and these are described below.  The website is http://maps.six.nsw.gov.au/

Once it opens, put the name of a feature or town in the white box that says ‘search for location’, then click ‘Search’.  It’s sometimes a bit picky; e.g. it can’t find Mt Ginini, but prefers Mount Ginini.  Note:  You also need to be patient because it might initially report “We’re not sure what you are looking for”, but within a couple of seconds will provide a list of results for your search.

When the results appear, click on the name you want, from those listed underneath the ‘Label’ – there may be a lot of places there; e.g. inputting Cooma produces nearly 100 results.  If you select Mount Ginini, a photomap will open, with a red flag on Mt Ginini.  The map scale will probably only be 1:9000.  Now click on the X in the top right of the search box and the box will disappear – as will the flag.

The easiest way to change the scale is to use the wheel on your mouse.  To see a topo map, you must select ‘Basemaps’ and then click in the ‘Looking for 1943 imagery’ area (sounds weird, hey).  Finally, you select ‘Topo Maps (current)’ and move the slider down from ‘foreground’ to ‘background’.  You now have the current WGS84 topo map which can be zoomed and printed.

You can move the map around by holding the left mouse button down and dragging the image – it takes a second or two for the move to occur.

Not surprisingly, few people are aware the current topo map is there, because it is so well hidden.  Once you’ve done it a couple of times, the process is easy.

As a bonus, the satellite photomaps seem far better quality than Google Earth’s.

Tools

There are a number of tools available in the menu bar at the top of the screen.  The Help menu explains how these work.

Printing

Select the “Print/PDF” tool from the menu bar and, in the resulting drop-down box, select “landscape” or “portrait” and create a name; e.g. Yankee Hat.  Now select “Preview”; you can still move the map area to be printed at this stage by dragging the image.  When you are satisfied, select “Generate PDF”.  The resultant PDF can be printed or you can save it to somewhere in your computer for later use (select “File” and “Save as”).  Depending on the scale you have chosen, you may need to print two or more adjoining areas and tape them together.

 Map Coordinates

If you are lucky, the map of the area you are interested in will have an Easting and a Northing on it somewhere (usually every 5; e.g. 65, 70, 75, etc).  Sometimes only an Easting or Northing will be shown and if you are out of luck, neither will.  If you go out another scale you will usually find them and can then take a note of where they are.  You can then later hand write them on the printed copy.

Coordinates Tool (optional)

The Coordinate tool will also work, but it can trick you.  Select the Co-ordinate tool and then select ‘Geographic’ in the box that appears.  You now have several choices and each of the GDA94-MGA ones refers to a series of map sheets that cover NSW.  The one for this general area is GDA94-MGA55, so select it.

Now, if you click on a point of interest, the Topo coordinates will appear in the Easting and Northing boxes to a ridiculous degree of accuracy.  For example, if you started looking for Namadgi Visitors Centre and then went through the Co-ordinate Tool process to find the coordinates of the point at which the Mt Tennent walking track crosses Naas Rd (click there), you’d end up with:  Easting 686994.768 and Northing 6065759.426.  Now ‘round up’ the last 3 whole numbers in each of these and you get: 6870 & 60658.  Finally, only use the last 3 digits in each to get the grid reference:  870658.  This is not unlike using a GPS to determine coordinates.

If the grid reference just doesn’t look right, you will have to try a different MGA number.  For example, in the Tamworth area, the map sheet series number is MGA56.

Having said all that, hand writing the numbers of the grid lines is probably a better proposition!

Conclusion

This a great resource for planning a walk and can save you the cost of buying an expensive map that will quickly deteriorate.