Finding maps and airphotos of your Minnesota woods

Maps and airphotos of your land give a new perspective on your land’s ecology and landscape context. They’re indispensable as you plan management activities, trails, and other features on your property.  This post describes some basic, free online map and airphoto sources for your Minnesota woodland.

View a complete recording of the March 2011 webinar:

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Airphotos online screencapture Airphotos Online: This site offers free low-and medium resolution aerial photos of Minnesota’s forested counties. Search photos by location name or by clicking the map. High-resolution digital and hard copy photos can also be ordered through the site.

If you have any trouble finding or ordering your photo, view our Airphotos Online slideshow tutorial.  You may also be interested in a more advanced custom map training offered by the Minnesota Logger Education Program.

Quick reference: About Airphotos Online (PDF)

Interactive custom maps:

Landview screencapture

Landview allows you to create customized maps within Minnesota using a wide variety of geographic features. Once you zoom in on a location, you can select which layers appear on the map: roads, lakes & rivers, state parks, and many more. Landview also allows you to see how your area has changed over time by viewing historic air photos.

Landview is an excellent application, but has a few quirks. Consider viewing our Landview slideshow tutorial.

Quick reference: About Landview (PDF)


Google Maps: It’s easy to create a custom map of your property using Google Maps. You can add boundaries, trails, or placemarks to your map, then add text, pictures, links, or video to each of those features. You can choose to keep your map private or to share it with others. Check out Google Maps’ My Maps user guide or watch a narrated slideshow called How to create and share a custom map.

Quick reference: About Google Maps (PDF)

Other sources of map data:

Google Earth is a remarkable mapping resource. After a free download and installation, it allows you to “fly over” the entire surface of the earth and zoom in on any location you want. The location could be your cabin, a remote temple in Mongolia, or anything in between. Although satellite image quality is improving steadily, it is variable from location to location.  Google Earth and other sites can get you close (e.g. by transferring latitude and longitude data from Google Earth into your GPS receiver), but should be used with caution, as errors can occur.

Note: In March 2011, John Geissler pointed out that the Saint Louis County Land Department now offers a free download of plat lines for use in Google Earth, including information on each parcel.  Once you have Google Earth installed, you can download the Saint Louis County KMZ parcel files here.  Wow!

Quick reference: About Google Earth (PDF)

NorthStar Mapper: Another custom mapping application for Minnesota is NorthStar Mapper, managed by the Land Management Information Center.

More Minnesota maps:

You can find maps of lake depths, public trails, state parks, plant communities, and much more at DNR’s Minnesota map resources page.

Learn more:

Attend an upcoming Woodland Advisor / Minnesota Logger Education Program workshop on accessing online airphotos and map data. For class listings, visit the Woodland Advisor class calendar.

Eli 's work addresses Minnesota forest ecology & management. He's based in St Paul.

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