Another great source that I find most universally adaptable is the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer. They may be found at:http://shop.delorme.com/OA_HTML/DELibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=10096&minisite=10020
Or by calling (800)561-5105. The reference I’ve given here is for their directory for atlases and gazetteers by state, but if you search their site, you‘ll find a whole array of products including electronic maps, GPS and tracking devices. For the atlases, they use a varying scale to suit the individual state, like 1:182,000, or 1”=2.9 miles over 29 pages for the State of Alabama, to 1:400,000, or 1“= 6.3 miles over an atlas of 126 pages for the State of Texas. You can find them almost everywhere, from many outfitters to even WalMart. The easiest way to obtain them is directly from DeLorme for the trip in advance. Another tip is to sign up for DeLorme’s emails and special offers. They frequently run special deals and 50% off sales. When Jake Stachovak did his circumnavigation of the Eastern United States, a trip of over 5,000 miles, he told me he used the DeLorme Atlases exclusively.
Then there are specialty maps, and there are tons of them. For example, if you are doing Boundary Waters, the area straddling the US/Canadian border between Minnesota and Ontario, there are plenty to choose from, like those printed by McKenzie, Fisher, and Voyaguer. Which do you choose? Well, if you are a more experienced tripper, you can examine the overview maps and pick your own. If this is your first trip, then it’s highly recommended to rely on the recommendations of the outfitters in the area who have first-hand experience with both the area, and the maps designed to cover it. Another option is to obtain a trip planning book, like those by Cliff Jacobson, Dan Pauly, Robert Beymer and others, where they will likely make recommendations, and even compare one map publisher against the others.
Again, the managing agency responsible for a particular area will frequently publish their own maps. Here are some examples.
A. The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail in Florida includes a trip planner and maps that may be downloaded and printed at home.
B. The Mississippi River is managed by the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources above the Iowa border, and the US Corps of Engineers manages two areas, one from Minnesota to Cairo, IL, and the second from Cairo to the Gulf of Mexico.
Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River Chartbooks.
C. While I’ve mentioned the Northern Forest Canoe Paddling Trail before, I can’t get away without pointing out their trail work again. These folks have it all together. There’s the 302-page planning guide. Then the 740-mile route is broken into 13 sections with maps for the entire route. The maps include information on camping, dining, libraries and internet access, attractions, provisioning spots, outdoor recreation, museums and points of interest, outfitters, shuttle services, lodging, visitor centers, and even recommended spots for the best photography. If you want to break the trip into sections, they have recommended itineraries for that. If you want first hand accounts from paddlers who have done the trip, they have the blogs from trips across the trail for the last seven years.
Another source of maps are the states and National Parks. Many of them print maps which provide both large scale as well as local knowledge on attractions and services that appear along the river as it flows through their areas.
Lastly, there are privately generated maps. A lot of these are fishing-oriented maps. For example, while visiting the area around the North Fork and White Rivers in Arkansas, we found a private map done by Jim Priest, Jr., of Mountain Home, AR, with input from a couple outfitters or guide services, and the Game & Fish Comm. The up side of such maps is they provide more detailed information (campsites, cabins, resorts, bait shops, walk-in access points in addition to ramps, etc.) and may also use some of the local lingo. For example, if you are sitting over your morning coffee in the diner and guys are talking about the fishing in Dew Eddy or Partee Hole, most maps will not steer you to those spots, but the local fishing map will. The down side is that private maps may not be updated as often, so you have to stay alert for sudden changes or discrepancies. Happy paddling!