Navigation Tutorial

Lesson 1 - Map Reading


All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2008. Not to be copied, duplicated or used for any purpose without permission.

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Navigation course by Ashley Burke

4. Human Features on the Map

Almost all topographic maps used by bushwalkers will depict some human geography such as tracks, roads, farms, buildings, power lines and so on. You should consult the map key when studying your map and acquaint yourself with the human made features that you are likely to encounter on your walk. Some man made features such as roads can assist with navigation but there are some catches that you should be aware of before relying too much on the accuracy of these features on your map. In this section we discuss some common man made features encountered by bushwalkers and how they might assist - or confuse - your navigation effort.

4.1 Tracks and Roads

Beware of minor tracks and roads that are marked or not marked on the map. Tracks can become overgrown since the map was made and new ones can be forged. Existing trails may be rerouted in new directions. Consider tracks and minor roads on the map to be a guide only. A good idea is to check the date of publication of the map you are using. Older maps (say 20 years old) are likely to be less accurate than new maps (10 years or younger).

4.2 Power Lines

Minor power lines may be marked on the map and are notoriously unreliable and are likely to have changed since map publication.

Large power stanchions, where present, are more reliable and can be used as navigation aids.

4.3 Farm Gates

If a track or road has farm gates marked on it, then this may indicate that the road is privately owned and not accessible by walkers. Check the map for boundary markings indicating whether the area is national park, state forest, or private title. This might help you work out whether access through the gate is allowed or not.

4.4 Property Boundaries, Park Boundaries and Cadastral Boundaries

Inspect your map for boundaries to help determine whether you have right to access the area. Maps will often indicate whether an area is national park, state forest, private title, crown land, reserve or whatever.

The boundary of a private property may be fenced, but don't assume that the fence you see on your walk follows the property boundary as shown on the map. Fence lines tend to proliferate in farm hinterland and typically bear no correlation with boundaries indicated on the map.

Some maps show a bounded region with a number inside it. These are designated titles, that is, private land.

Where the map marks private property within or surrounded by national park or bush, these are often cleared areas or fenced areas and useful to take note of when reading the map.

Occasionally cadastral boundaries are marked routes.




Web page created 12 Jul 2008, last updated 12 Jul 2008.

All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2008. Not to be copied, duplicated or used for any purpose without permission.

Bushwalking Page