Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: California National Forest Atlases

This book review was originally published in the October 2008 edition of California Fly Fisher Magazine.

Book Review: California National Forest Atlases
Publisher: USDA Forest Service
Review by Andrew Harris

One of the great joys of fly fishing is collecting and studying maps.  Whether I’m looking for a place to fish within an hour of my house or planning an overseas fly fishing odyssey, I love consulting maps of all sorts.  My home office is filled with maps from many states and countries.
One problem with many of my maps is that they’re great for studying on the living room floor, but they don’t travel well.  Much of my fishing is done in National Forests.  Anyone who is familiar with National Forest “Visitor Maps” that although they provide excellent detail, unfolding one in the car is a nightmare due to their huge size.  One alternative is USGS 7.5 minute topographical maps, but they are also large, and show a relatively small area.
            Fortunately, the Forest Service has provided a great solution for many of the National Forests in California: the National Forest Atlas.  These are book-sized (8.5” x 11”) wire-bound compilations of all the 7.5 minute topo maps in each forest.  They range in price between $12 and $38 depending on the number of topo maps in each forest.  They are currently available for the Angeles, Cleveland, Inyo, Lassen, Los Padres, Modoc, Plumas, San Bernadino, and Six Rivers National Forests, plus the Lake Tahoe Basin.
            Each atlas has a topographical map key on the inside front cover and a topo map index on the first page.  The index is repeated on the inside back cover for easy reference.  Every page in between is filled with a different 7.5 minute topo map with a scale of 1 inch to the mile.  These maps are surprisingly readable at this scale, and the print quality is superb.  The atlases lay totally flat when folded over.  The back cover shows a comprehensive list of contact information for National Forest Ranger Districts, other state and federal agencies, local visitor’s bureaus, ambulances, hospitals, public utilities, even local tow trucks!
            These maps make navigating through your favorite National Forest much easier.  If only these had been available when I was researching my Plumas National Forest Trout Fishing Guide!  The oldest atlas is the Lake Tahoe Basin Atlas, published in 1998.  Half of the Atlases were published within the last three years.  Curiously, it seems like these atlases are only available for a National Forests in California. 
To purchase one of these atlases, go to the National Forest Store online at and click the “California Atlases” link.

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