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Mapping Maps

What Do the Symbols Really Mean? is widely recognized for quality maps. Our maps show more than how to navigate from here
to there. Use them to plan efficient trips, finding the most direct routes via high capacity roads or make
travel interesting by adding memorable side-trips & rest stops while maintaining good driving time.

Knowing the meaning of the map symbols unlocks rich details and depth to help design the right kind of trip.
Some of the following information might also be fun in a trivia contest along the way!

Symbols Used in's
Map Library:
Colors & Widths Denote
the Type of Road:
Symbols Identify
the Type of Road:
Controlled-Access Highway Interstate Highway Symbol
Interstate Symbol
Controlled-Access Highways are only accessable via on-ramps and exit-ramps (like Interstates). Exits are usually numbered, and those numbers correspond to mile markers. Usually, the miles on even-numbered Highways run east to west; and on odd-numbered Highways, south to north.

You can subtract the numbers between mile markers and/or exit numbers to determine how many miles remain.
The Interstate Highway System is a network of controlled access roads with 4 or more lanes. Speed limits range from 65 to 80 mph in rural areas and as low as 55 in urban areas. 45 mph is typically the minimum speed.

Major routes use numbers divisible by 5. East-west arterial Interstates are given even numbers (I-20, I-40, etc.). North-south Interstates have odd numbers (I-15, I-95, etc.)

Other Interstates may be circumferential, radial or spur to other Interstate highways. Circumferential & radial routes have an even first digit plus the two-digit number of the connecting interstate (I-285, I-615, etc.) while spurs usually have an odd first digit (I-595, I-625, etc.).
Major Highway Federal Highway Symbol
Federal Highway Symbol
Major Highways often have multiple lanes and fewer stop lights and stop signs. Some are controlled-access.
This symbol denotes highways that are part of the Federal Highway System. They may run concurrently with other highways at times and then diverge.
Other Highway State Highway Symbol
State Highway Symbol
Other highways are often 2-lane roads with no access control.
State highway symbols identify state routes.
Parkways offer scenic views through parks or scenic areas. Trucks are usually excluded.
Names & City Symbols
Major Cities, Mid-Size Cities, & Smaller Towns are differentiated by varying symbols and type sizes. See the sidebar for examples.
On's maps, the following colors are used to identify physical features and certain areas:

Blue lines indicate major rivers, lakes and bodies of water.

Yellow or pink shaded areas indicate city limits.

Green shaded areas delineate parklands or recreational areas.

Scale Bar
The scale bar provides a visual reference for determining the distances between points on the map.
North Arrow
A North Arrow indicates the map's orientation.

Reprinted from's Spring 2008 Resource Atlas & Handbook, updated 07/2011.