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What Is a Physical Map?
Physical maps show the natural landscape features of Earth. They are best known for showing topography, either by colors or as shaded relief. Physical maps often have a green to brown to gray color scheme to show the elevation of the land. Darker greens are used for near-sea-level elevations, with the color grading into tans and browns as elevations increase. The color gradient often terminates in shades of gray for the highest mountains.
Rivers, lakes, seas and oceans are usually shown in blue, often with a light blue color for the most shallow areas and darkening in a gradient or by intervals for areas of deeper water. Glaciers and ice caps are shown in white colors.
Physical maps usually show the most important political boundaries, such as state and country boundaries. Major cities and major roads might not be shown. This cultural information is not the focus of a physical map, but it is often included for geographic reference and to increase the utility of the map for many users.
Physical Map of The United States of America
The map above reveals the physical landscape of the United States. The Appalachian Mountains can be traced from Alabama into New York. The Adirondak Mountains of New York, the White Mountains of New England, and the Catskill Mountains of New York are also visible. Topography in the western United States is dominated by the Rocky Mountains. Other major ranges in the west include the Bitterroot Range of Idaho, the Cascade Range of Washington and Oregon, the Coast Range of California and Oregon, the Sierra Nevada of California and Nevada.
Other physical features visible on this map include the Coastal Plain, Central Lowlands, Great Plains, Columbia Plateau, Death Valley, and the Colorado Plateau. The Great Lakes can be seen in the north central part of the country, and Great Salt Lake is shown in Utah.
Copyright information: The images on this page were composed by Angela King and are copyright by Geology.com. If you would like to share them with others please link to this page. They are not available for use beyond our websites. The map was produced using data licensed from and copyright by Map Resources.