GIS 295 Term Project Blog #1


When taking GIS 203 (Cartography), my final project was creating an orienteering map with GIS Desktop using the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) cartographic standards. The map’s purpose is to teach orienteering to first year Scouts in order to pass specific requirements.  As a result, the map is part of a two-page product containing information about calculating bearings and estimating heights, as well as providing a form to enter control point information.

For GIS 295, I want to explore how to create the same map with the same features using a general purpose web-based map creation tool such as ArcGIS Online and a specialized orienteering map tool called Open Orienteering Map ( I plan to devote the three blogs required to describe how the orienteering maps are created with each system – ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Online, and Open Orienteering Map.

ArcGIS Desktop Base Layer Creation

ArcGIS Desktop provides the user with many tools and detailed controls to create any kind of map. While ArcGIS Online and Open Orienteering Map supply default base maps, in ArcGIS Desktop, one must create their own base map layer with the desired scale.  The following steps are what I did to create the base map on ArcGIS Desktop:

  1. Downloaded the 3-meter National Elevation Dataset and hydrology data for Fairfax County from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Geospatial Data Gateway.
  2. Created an “extent” polygon shape file defining the region of interest around Fraser Preserve located in the western section of Great Falls, Virginia, near the Potomac River.
  3. Created a 3-meter topographic line data set for Fairfax County using the Contour tool from the 3D Analyst toolbox.
  4. Performed an Extract-By-Mask operation to create a 3-meter elevation data layer inside the extent polygon region at Camp Fraser Preserve.
  5. Selected only those water features in the extent using manual polygon deletion operations for the river, with reverse selection for streams and ponds. Removed topographic lines bisecting the ponds and rivers.
  6. Set the fill colors and point size of the above features (topographic lines, streams, ponds, and river) according to IOF cartographic standards.

As a result, the following base map was generated:


ArcGIS Desktop Map Feature Creation

The IOF cartography standard stresses land features in order to provide the user with as much information as possible to aid in navigation. In the following chart, one can see there are several categories of open land with type and variety of vegetation specified. Water and marshes also have many categories to help the user determine if any impassible obstacles are present:


Land cover, water features, trails, roads, buildings, and course control points are the main map components. I discovered that contained the trail used for the course, and I could accurately free-hand sketch the trail to generate a polygon, which was added to the project as a shape file.  I also created shape files for the roads, control points, and buildings with the same process:


The IOF also defines orienteering course control points as a purple colored circle containing a dot. The course start and end points use a triangular purple symbol. None of ESRI’s libraries contained these symbols, and as a result, I created it with the Desktop Symbol Property Editor:


Control point information and additional text was created with Microsoft Publisher (for maximum format control) resulting in a final two-page PDF document stapled front-to-back on a rigid piece of 8.5 x 11 inch cardboard:


The following sources were used to define map elements and content:

  • Steven Boga, Orienteering: The Sport of Navigating with Map & Compass, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, copyright 1997, Chapter 3 Map and Compass, pp 23-67.
  • Bjorn Hjellstrom, Be Expert with Map & Compass, The Complete Orienteering Handbook, 2nd Ed., Macmillan General Reference, New York, NY, copyright 1994, Part 1, Discovery Fun with Maps Alone, pp 9-61. Part 2, Exploration, Fun with Compass Alone, pp 63-104.
  • The Boy Scout Handbook, 11th Edition, copyright 1998, Chapter 5, First Class Scout, pp 111-125.
  • Camp Fraser Preserve at web site:, [24 October 2015].
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Geospatial Data Gateway:, [24 October 2015].
  • International Orienteering Federation map symbols:, [24 October 2015].
  • Orienteering USA:, [24 October 2015].