Can you really get lost if you have your cell phone with you?
Planning an adventure, be it on the Brazos River or across the more than 18,500 surface acres of Possum Kingdom Lake, preparation is key. One way to ensure your trip is the best it can be is to have a map. But first, you have to know how to read it.
Perhaps you’ve only ever used GPS on a device to navigate locations and can’t orient yourself by looking at a giant drawing of a landscape with drawings of roads, rivers, buildings, trees and lakes. You don’t want to wait until there’s an emergency to discover whether you can direct someone to your location or get yourself out of a spot.
Don’t let pride get in the way of opening a physical map in an age when mapping apps are commonplace. Phone batteries die, can become damaged or lost, or unable to access a signal while you’re out in the middle of a lake or among the trees and brush on the river.
Map designers often use similar things in their work, including a legend that explains what symbols might mean, an orientation, and scales, according to ThoughtCo. There are physical maps, topographical maps, climate maps, road maps, thematic maps, economic maps and many different types of maps.
And they’ve been around a long time.
“One of the oldest surviving maps is, ironically, about the size and shape of an early iPhone: the Babylonian Map of the World,” according to a Smithsonian magazine article. “A clay tablet created around 700 to 500 B.C. in Mesopotamia, it depicts a circular Babylon at the center, bisected by the Euphrates River and surrounded by the ocean.” Then there are 12 Maps That Changed the World. They offer a glimpse into human history, cultures and subjective views on our world.
But ultimately, whether it’s about finding yourself, changing directions, going on an adventure or learning new things, educating yourself on map reading can help you flourish in those escapades.
A multitude of lessons in map reading for children, youth, or adults well versed in using maps can be found at the Ordnance Survey site. Depending on the map you’re using, you may need to brush up your skills on understanding map contour lines, or a beginner’s guide to understanding map scales.
Maps can also be a great way to help youth experience spatial thinking, or how to comprehend and analyze phenomena related to the places and spaces around them.
“Spatial thinking is one of the most important skills that students can develop as they learn geography, Earth, and environmental sciences,” according to this National Geographic article. “It also deepens and gives a more complete understanding of history and is linked to success in math and science. Young students also enhance their language skills as they collaborate and communicate about spatial relationships. Students who develop robust spatial thinking skills will be at an advantage in our increasingly global and technological society.”
Go ahead and bookmark this link for future access to online maps of the different regions across the Brazos River basin that you may want to download and keep in your bag. Maps available include where all the dams on the basin are located, major and minor cities across the basin, recreation maps of BRA-owned lakes, and more.
The Brazos River Authority will mail free physical maps of any of its three reservoirs: Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and Lake Limestone. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org the request with your mailing address.
The US Army Corps of Engineers also has maps of the lakes they own and operate available for download, including this one of Lake Whitney or this one of Lake Waco.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also an analysis of Texas Waterways that provides mile markers along the Brazos River for different sections, including the 41.4 miles from Possum Kingdom Lake to the U.S. 180, 3 miles west of Mineral Wells or the 28 miles on the Brazos River from State Highway 7 to the Farm-to-Market 979 crossing, 5 miles west of Calvert.
Some of our greatest adventures take us outside our comfort zones. But don’t get lost on your excursion. Pack a map.