BWCA Quetico topo map + water flow direction Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
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member (14)member
05/29/2012 02:56PM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
Here is an example topographic map centered on a random spot in the Quetico:,-91.743232&t=t5&z=13

This is a 'vector' topographic map and was developed by the Canadian government which refers to it by the name "Toporama". The government also assembled the water-flow-direction info.

These vector topo maps actually cover all of Canada so zoom/pan/search to your heart's content.

All of this data is delivered to your screen by Gmap4 which is an enhanced Google map viewer I developed. Nope, this is not a commercial post since Gmap4 is part of my way of "paying it forward". Translation: Gmap4 is 100% free for non-commercial use.

If you would like to learn more, check out the Gmap4 homepage:


Joseph, the Gmap4 guy
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05/29/2012 03:42PM  
This is excellent! Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

This technology is of particular interest to me these days. It appears the USGS is rolling out their newer generation of vector based topo maps also. Any idea when/if Google will be providing that option as well?
05/29/2012 03:57PM  
Earlier today I posted some GPS data in response to another question using Google Maps directly (which means I'm stuck with their more limited standard public service). The link below uses Gmap4 with much nicer results and options. Very cool! Thanks again.

Clearwater Lake to Lake Two Portages
member (14)member
05/29/2012 11:10PM  
Thanks for the kind words.

Personally, I would be surprised if Google itself ever displayed any of the USGS topographic maps. But you never know...

Here’s a few things you can do with Gmap4. If you are making a post about a specific place then you can include a link in your post that shows a map of that place. Here are several versions of a map centered at Wet Lake (great name!) Ontario.

Google Terrain:,-77.563035

Vector topographic map (t5 Canada = Toporama):,-77.563035&t=t5

Add one symbol to the map:,-77.563035&t=t5&symbol=prs

Scanned topographic map (t2 MyTopo),-77.563035&t=t2&symbol=prs

To get the coordinates for any location simply place your cursor on that spot and right click.

You can get draggable driving directions by pointing to the start or end of your driving trip, doing a right click and then clicking the appropriate button in the bottom of the popup window.

Be sure to play with the Menu button which lets you search, display a UTM grid, get the current magnetic declination and more. If you do Menu ==> Show map URL then you will get a URL that will recreate the same map you see on your screen.

And if you look at the Gmap4 homepage then you can see examples of how Gmap4 can display several kinds of files containing GPS data.

Joseph, the Gmap4 guy
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05/30/2012 11:03AM  
Very Cool, Thanks
distinguished member(1132)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/30/2012 10:46PM  
Great feature - thanks for sharing !!!
member (14)member
05/31/2012 04:15PM  
Please note that I am in the process of changing how Gmap4 displays the red arrows showing the direction of water flow in Canada (and in a bit of the northern USA). The links below are to beta code. These beta code files will likely disappear in a month or so. You’ve been warned.

If you check out the new features in this beta code, I would enjoy hearing your feedback. Please post your comments in this thread for the benefit of others.

All the links below show the same spot along the Ontario-Minnesota border.

By default, the red arrows will not be shown on the map:,-90.742472&t=t5&z=13

I added a new URL parameter called “layers”. The default value for this parameter is layers=off. The following URL produces the same map (no red arrows) as the first URL:,-90.742472&t=t5&z=13&layers=off

To display the red flow arrows on all of the base maps, set this new parameter like so: layers=1_all. NOTE that layers=all will generate an error message.,-90.742472&t=t5&z=13&layers=1_all

To display the red flow arrows just on the t4 and t5 topos but not on the other base maps, set this new parameter like so: layers=1_t4_t5.,-90.742472&t=t5&z=13&layers=1_t4_t5

Here are the short names for the base maps that you can use with the ‘layers’ parameter:
m, s, h, t1, t2, t3, t4, t5

In the future, Gmap4 might display other transparent overlays. Each overlay will have a unique number. The overlay with the red flow arrows is #1.

I still have another piece of code to write. There has to be a way for someone viewing your map to use the Menu button on the map to turn the red arrows on/off for the different base maps. After all, just because you build a Gmap4 URL that displays red flow arrows on the Google aerial does not mean that the person looking at your fine map wants to see ‘em.

Now let’s bubble up.

This red arrow flow data comes from a WMS server maintained by the Canadian government. It turns out that there is a whole pile of data available on WMS servers around the world. If anyone knows of other WMS data that it would be useful for Gmap4 to display as transparent overlays, please let me know. This is an intriguing area for further development.

Joseph, the Gmap4 guy
distinguished member (282)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/31/2012 04:24PM  
This is really great. I don't quite understand all the tech speak going on, but will play with it a little tomorrow.

Does this WMS possibly have lake depth?? I know that is the number 1 "want" for me on Quetico and wilderness lakes in Canada.
member (14)member
05/31/2012 10:49PM  
I have not seen lake depth yet on a WMS server.
If you happen to find that info, please let me know.
06/05/2012 10:54AM  
Just found this thread. Loving the maps!!

thanks for sharing
distinguished member (276)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/05/2012 03:03PM  
Can you have it refresh to show current fishing hotspots? Google Maps is able to show current traffic levels on the highway, afterall...
member (14)member
06/05/2012 03:05PM  
If you can find a file that contains that info and is in one of the formats that Gmap4 can display, then you can display that file just like you can display a file with your GPS track.

But it is up to you to find a file with the kind of data you want to display and then to form a Gmap4 URL to display that file.
06/06/2012 11:52AM  
Really cool thanks for sharing
distinguished member (184)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/06/2012 12:00PM  
This is a great tool. Thanks Jeff.
member (14)member
06/06/2012 12:02PM  
Thanks for all the kind words.

As I learn more about WMS I am just amazed at the amount of information that can be obtained from WMS servers. Is there a 'layer' that would show campgrounds? I expect that there is. Someone else asked about showing Canada Crown land since camping is allowed.

At the present time Gmap4 includes some hard coding with the identifiers that point to the WMS server that has the nifty red water-flow-direction arrows for Canada. However, I cannot add code to Gmap4 each time someone somewhere wants to show some new info on the map that they have found on a WMS server. There has to be a better way and I have an idea.

The Gmap4 Help file has a lot of info about a "delimited" file format that Gmap4 can read. I am considering expanding the specification for that file format such that anyone could add info to such a delimited file that would identify data that was on a WMS server that they wanted to add to the Gmap4 maps. In most cases someone that wanted to add WMS info to the map would only have to specify two things in the delimited file:
1. URL pointing to the WMS server
2. Name of the data (layer) that they want to display

In other words, Gmap4 could become a generic WMS viewer. Anyone could add one or more WMS layers to their maps just by making a simple "delimited" text file and then building a Gmap4 URL to display that file. To a map coding geek like myself, the notion of providing a generic WMS viewer on top of Gmap4 is fascinating. I certainly have not seen anyone provide such a generic viewer on top of Google maps yet. The only thing I have seen are apps where one or more specific WMS layers are hard-coded into the app (like I did with the red flow arrows).

Realistically though, I am focused on finishing a commercial app related to property line maps and will not be able to do much with WMS ideas until next winter when the monsoon season returns to the Pacific Northwest. However I will soon promote the Gmap4 beta code into production and then the red flow arrows will be off by default but can be turned on with a URL parameter as described above.

Joseph, the Gmap4 guy
member (14)member
06/10/2012 07:28AM  
The Gmap4 code has just been updated to version 3.3. The red arrows showing the direction that water flows (Canada only) are now off by default. You can turn them on with a parameter in the Gmap4 URL as described in my prior post about the beta version. Note - The method for turning these red arrows on will change in the future. For more information please search the Gmap4 Help file on “WMS”.

Things that are new in this version:

The Gmap4 Help file has also been updated. The features that have been added/changed are marked “(New)” in the Help file.

Joseph, the Gmap4 Guy
member (14)member
03/22/2013 04:15PM  
Recently Gmap4 was updated to version 4.1 and now includes a unique map-in-a-link feature that is worth mentioning. Anyone can now make a custom map and save their data right in a Gmap4 link. You do not need to save your data in a separate file such as a GPX or KML file. This may be the easiest and faster way for you to make a custom online topographic map.

To try out this feature:
1. Click Menu ==> Draw and Save
2. Click the map a few times to set draggable symbols and draw a line
3. Rightclick any symbol and select “Gmap4 display long link”

You can copy the link that is displayed, paste it into a new browser address bar, hit enter and your custom map will be displayed.

This feature also works on your iPhone, iPad, android and other mobile device. Remember, Gmap4 is a browser app and your browser has to be online. After you tap the screen to set some draggable symbols then tap a symbol and select “Action Menu”. The list of actions include two different ways to save a Gmap4 link that includes your data.

More information on this map-in-a-link feature can be found in the following three places.

1. What’s new page
Note the tip about deleting the ll and z parameters from your Gmap4 link.

2. Example page
Scroll down to the section titled “Your map data saved in the Gmap4 link”. The examples range from basic to advanced and give you a quick way to see some of the kinds of maps you can make with this feature.

3. Help file
You can download the PDF file and search it (control-f) for the section titled “Make a custom map with Gmap4 and save it”.

Joseph, the Gmap4 guy
Redmond, WA
03/22/2013 06:10PM  
quote chipaddler: "
Does this WMS possibly have lake depth?? I know that is the number 1 "want" for me on Quetico and wilderness lakes in Canada."

You won't find much in the way of lake depth maps, because most Quetico lakes have not been mapped.
03/22/2013 06:23PM  
Jelf, would you put an email address in your profile or drop me an email, please?

member (14)member
03/22/2013 06:37PM  
quote Jackfish: "Jelf, would you put an email address in your profile or drop me an email, please?

Yes, there is an email address in my profile.

If you prefer that I not post any info about updates, then I apologize and will not do so.


03/22/2013 11:39PM  
quote Jelf: "quote Jackfish: "Jelf, would you put an email address in your profile or drop me an email, please?

Yes, there is an email address in my profile.

If you prefer that I not post any info about updates, then I apologize and will not do so.


No need to get excited... I just wanted to ask a question off line. And you do not have an email in your profile. Otherwise we all would see the little envelope under the words "view profile" on your posts.
member (14)member
03/23/2013 07:23AM  
My fault - sorry.

I have the profile box checked to hide my email address in case spammers would be able to scrape it from the site.

Please email me through my contact page. That page has features to prevent spammers from getting my email address.


senior member (80)senior membersenior member
03/31/2013 08:44AM  
WOW. Any way to get this onto a garmin for personal use in the field?
member (14)member
03/31/2013 09:19AM  
quote derek5017: "WOW. Any way to get this onto a garmin for personal use in the field?"
Hmmm....interesting question

Some of the basemaps are protected by copyright that prohibits any attempt to 'export' the images for use on a GPS.

But the 't3' USA topo maps are in the public domain. Technically, it would be possible to write code that would export these maps as KMZ files that could be loaded into a Garmin GPS that allows custom maps.

I just read the license for the 't5' Canada maps. It is OK to export these images for use on a GPS.

At some point I will likely experiment with writing code to do this but the soonest I would do so would be next winter when I am spending more time indoors.


senior member (80)senior membersenior member
03/31/2013 09:46AM  
I'll be watching! Beautiful interface. Thanks for sharing!
senior member (99)senior membersenior member
05/30/2022 10:39PM  
I know this post is almost 10 years old, but...

Does anyone know how to get the maps referenced in this old thread to show the "water flow directional arrows"?


senior member (89)senior membersenior member
05/31/2022 09:25AM  
Charismar maps have direction of flow arrows on them.
Chrismar Mapping Services Inc.
Box 1277, Uxbridge, Ontario
phone: 905 - 852 - 6151
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