large scale map

Map Scale

Any scale can be used for a map, but a few common scales have been settled on for use by most organizations:

The smaller the number on the bottom of the map scale, the more detailed the map will be. A 1:10,000 map will show objects ten times as large as a 1:100,000 map but will only show 1/10th the land area on the same sized piece of paper.

Here is an example of a Bar Scale found on a map. The scale shows that about 1.25 inches equals 5 miles. The smaller increments to the left of zero are each 1 mile and are used to estimate smaller distances. Notice the scale is 1/250000 - that means 1 inch on the map is equal to 250,000 inches on the real land. (5 miles = 5*5280 feet = 5*5280*12 inches = 316800 inches. 316800 inches / 250000 = 1.27 inches)

map scale

By including a map scale like the image above, if the map is photocopied and reduced in size, the scale can still be used. Otherwise, 1 inch would no longer equal what it should.

Calculating the Map Scale:

Distance on Map
Distance on Ground
1.27 inches
5 miles
1.27 inches
316800 inches

Maps are considered

large scale maps


small scale maps

. A large scale map shows greater detail because the scale is a larger fraction than a small scale map.
Large scale maps have a scale of 1:50,000 or greater (1:24,000, 1:10,000, ...).
Maps with scales from 1:50,000 to 1:250,000 are considered intermediate.
Small scale maps are those with scales smaller than 1:250,000. A map of the world that fits on two pages of letter sized paper would be very small scale with a scale of around 1:100,00,000.

Here are 3 views of the same location on maps with different scales:

large scale map

Next: Map Symbols

map scales Why are maps like fish?
They both have scales!

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