Your Favorite Place in Texas

These materials were developed by Shannon Crum and Kenneth Foote, Department of Geography, University of Texas at Austin, 1995. These materials may be used for study, research, and education in not-for-profit applications. If you link to or cite these materials, please credit the authors, Shannon Crum and Kenneth Foote, The Geographer's Craft Project, Department of Geography, The University of Colorado at Boulder. These materials may not be copied to or issued from another Web server without the authors' express permission. Copyright 1995. All commercial rights are reserved. If you have comments or suggestions, please contact the authors or Kenneth E. Foote at

Prepare a map of your favorite place in Texas, but use as a base one of the digital county maps prepared by Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and available in the Internet. You may select any sort of place--your home, a park, or place you like to visit. Your task is to prepare a complete thematic map of this place and its surrounding area.

Excellent digital maps are now available in the Internet and this exercise will allow you to examine some of the best that are available for Texas. Drafting the map will also give you more practice with Microstation, particularly the editing functions. You will also learn how to use reference files. The following instructions will guide your through the steps of the exercise, whereas particular commands will be introduced in class and lab.

1. Download a Digital County File from the Texas National Resources Information System (TNRIS) fileserver

Decide on the place you wish to map and identify the county in which it is located. The size of the area you wish to map may be small (your neighborhood) or large (Big Bend National Park).  The TxDOT files are digitized from 24:000 scale maps and contain a considerable range of information, including federal, state, county, and city roads and water features. However, if you select too small an area, the map will be sparsely detailed. I wouldn't suggest mapping an area of less than about 0.5-1.0 square mile. It is no problem if the area you wish to map spans two or three counties, though this means that you will have to download more than one TxDOT file and merge them.
  You may want to move the file to the hard drive or a ZIP dirve first since some of the files are larger than the capacity of a 1.44MB floppy.

Incidentally, if your map theme spans two or more counties, the .dgn files can be merged in Microstation, or they can be displayed in "tiled" form.

Note: While you are out on the TNRIS fileserver you might enjoy browsing around to see what other date they archive. You can access this data directly with ftp or you may wish to browse using the TNRIS Navigator (TNRIS FTP Site).

2. Chop Your Area Out of the County Map

Use a fence to outline the area of interest. Set the fence options to Clip-Void and then Delete everything outside the fence. (After you have performed the delete, I would recommend changing Clip-Void back to Inside. The Clip-Void option is very dangerous to leave activated, for obvious reasons.)

3. Edit the Area of Interest

The TxDOT file is your basemap, but you will have to edit it in a number of ways.

Change the color numbers of features to fit the color palette of our printers. The TxDOT files were created with other screens and printers in mind.

Change line types and line weights to fit the needs of your map. Again, the line types and weights were selected to meet the needs of TxDOT. You may have to change them.

Clean and edit features. You may also with to clean and improve other features in your map, particularly city streets.

4. Add Any Additional Detail by Freehand or from Registered Maps and Photographs

If your favorite place is a building, park, or some other features that does not appear in the digital file, you'll have to draft it into the file. You can draft these features freehand and lift the detail from other maps and photographs by registering them to your digital file.

5. Create Your Final Map Layout and Add Other Necessary Elements

You need to complete your map by adding a neatline, title, scale, north arrow, annotations (if needed), legend (if needed), name, and date. Remember, you will be plotting to 8.5x11 inch paper. In drawing your scale, remember that the digital files are in feet. You can use the Precision Input menu to draw the scale bar to an exact length.

6. What to Hand In

Please submit this an 8.5x11" paper map.

Last revised 2000.4.1. LNC