Jeff’s Map – An Invaluable Resource
With the ice quickly melting from Ontario’s waterways and trail systems drying out, the urge to get out adventuring has hit many of us hard. I thought that it was worth picking up from Mark Highfield’s blog article about Trip Planning (http://quickescapes.ca/trips/march-trip-planning-monthunofficially) and take a deeper look at the invaluable map resources that Jeff is putting together over at Jeff’s Maps (www.jeffsmaps.com).
Several years ago, a google search lead me to the landing page for Jeff’s Maps. I didn’t really know what to expect as I entered the site, but I wasn’t overly optimistic. The internet can offer up an incredible amount of information on specific topics, but I have found that there is a lack of quality information for camping and outdoor related activites. The majority of the information is found through personal trip reports and forums. Most of the map resources available online are simply electronic copies of old government survey’s dating back to the 1970s.
To my surprise Jeff’s site offered, what I would consider, the next generation in mapping resources. Jeff has painstakingly consolidated dozens of different resources into a single, concise map. He not only includes the general topographical details (roadways, trails, waterways, contours etc.) but Jeff also includes camping, hiking and portage details along with fish species, historical info, wildlife facts, personal comments and travel times based on general skill levels.
I was in love! How could this be any better? This question was answered when I realized that it was all open source and available to anyone, free of charge. I spent several hours vetting the Algonquin Park map trying to find errors. I looked at areas that I had previously tripped. I compared Jeff’s details to the ‘official’ Algonquin Park maps. As a point of interest I read over every comment, wildlife and historical note. I cross referenced all of Jeff’s fish species notations with lakes that I had previously fished (successfully) for accuracy. Jeff’s Map was incredibly accurate.
Jeff has more recently expanded his maps to include Killarney and Temagami Provincial Parks. These maps prove of the same high quality and they are just as accurate as his Algonquin Map.
All of Jeff’s Maps are available in multiple formats: JPEG, KMZ Google Earth, iphone and Android, Garmin GPS and most recently Jeff has made available for purchase 1:84,000 scale folding maps that are waterproof, tear-resistant and they float. My favourite product that Jeff offers are his wall maps. These 1 piece maps can be purchased in a large (3.5’X5.8’ – 1:118,000 scale) format or a massive (6’X10’ – 1:68,000 scale) size.
In the spring of 2014 we field tested Jeff’s Algonquin Map. Mark Highfield and I coordinated a last minute trip from Smoke Lake down through Big Porcupine Lake and over to Lake Louisa. We printed the maps that we need for each day, in the sizes that we wanted and stored them in a waterproof map case. In all cases the distances noted on our GPS were identical to Jeff’s Map. The campsite and portage locations were accurate. Portage lengths and elevation notations seemed accurate as well (including the torturous “Stairway To Heaven” portage from Lawrence Lake to Rod & Gun Lake).
We haven’t used any other maps since.
We had the chance to catch up with Jeff recently at the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto. Two things struck me right away. First was his passion for both the outdoors and the maps that he meticulously produces. Jeff is a passionate outdoorsman who understands the importance of detailed and accurate information. My second observation was that Jeff’s Maps are full of stories. Are you wondering why there is a notation to watch carefully for a fork in the portage? Chances are Jeff has taken the wrong route (and who hasn’t done that?). This is a detail that rarely appears on other maps but it exists on Jeff’s Maps to help provide a better tripping experience.
Jeff is the first person to admit that he hasn’t done it alone. He has relied on many people to provide historical maps, GPS coordinates and corrections to the ever changing landscapes of these parks. He encourages other to continue to send him updates, suggestions and corrections as well as any GPS information so that his maps can continue to be as accurate and up to date as possible.
I can’t begin to fathom the amount of work that Jeff has put into these maps, nor can I thank Jeff enough for his efforts. A map is one of the most essential tools to have when heading out into the wilds. Jeff’s Maps stand alone atop the mountain with no equals and no peers.