Working within Euro-Centric guidelines when mapping rural USA

Posted by Mark Newnham on 16 July 2013 in English (English)

Firstly, it’s not an insult, I’m a European myself and had no concept of what the landscape looked like before I arrived here. As I’ve spent the last few weeks mapping rural Colorado, I’ve really noticed a few things that right now I am having real problems with. I’m going to try to list them out here, maybe expand these diary entries out as I work these out.


Is it 60% of Colorado roads that are unpaved? something like that. I’ve a lot more to say, but gotta go to work, back later

Rural route numbers

I’ve been ref tagging County Roads as “CR 123” but it seems some are tagged as (123). Some routes also have Forest Service numbers which are important and I think these should be ref tagged as “USFS 123”. These could be extremely useful navigation aids.


An important part of the Colorado landscape. I’ve mapped them out as intermittent streams (which is what they are in some sensed), but I’ve experimented with using riverbanks to tag them. (see Ludlow, Colorado). I think they are important because:

  1. They are easily recognizable on imagery.
  2. They are often named on maps, making them a good navigation aid
  3. The beds are often as wide as riverbank mapped rivers.
  4. They are important enough to require full-size rail and road bridges
  5. Minor road crossings are often de-facto fords, with the same issues as approach angle etc.
  6. They can seriously impede walkers and cyclists.
  7. They are extremely dangerous in flash-flood season.

Mapping them out as rivers seems wrong, but there seems no alternative

Comment from russdeffner on 16 July 2013 at 15:42

Hello Mark,

I’ll just speak to roads right now, 60% unpaved sounds about right - unless you count all our crazy 2-track off-highway ‘trails’ (that, yes, folks drive on), maybe even more. As with tradition of OSM, I would use County Road # rather than abbreviated; for roads inside US Forest Service Boundaries, it always seemed a little overkill to spell out the whole thing, it can be implied that a road within the boundary is theirs so I use Forest Road #. I know you’ve come across your share of TIGER deserts while mapping here, so one thing to be cautious of is a lot of those roads are (in theory) one in the same; i.e. it will be County Road 1 while on county lands and Forest Road 1 as soon as it crosses into USFS lands (and some may go in and out) and TIGER is often very incorrect of where those changes occur. I would suggest if you see what looks like homes anywhere nearby, use county, etc.

Also, please don’t tag all dirt roads as Tracks! If there are homes along/off the road it should be Residential and it will often be left to locals to say that a dirt road may actually be better tagged Tertiary, Primary, etc. - these should be used to represent the significance/usage of the road and are all valid even if it’s dirt. Please use surface=* and other descriptive tags to represent ‘road condition’.

Happy Mapping,

=Russ =Russ

Comment from russdeffner on 16 July 2013 at 15:46

Oh I just realized your talking about ref, not name - so CR# and USFS# seem appropriate.

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