The Glaciers’ Touch Remains

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Why We Love It

The glaciers that shaped so much of North America and other continents left enduring marks on the state of Washington, particularly in the Puget Lowland region. The Glacial Landforms of the Puget Lowland map peels away a green carpet of trees and soil to reveal amazing features the glaciers left behind. A focus on six distinct geologic examples serves to educate and intrigue. We love how this map relies on minimal moving parts: your eyes and your curiosity.

Why It Works

This map works because it pays attention to detail in color, contrast, and layout. The marginalia hug the curves of the glaciers’ paths. The callouts deftly reveal evidence that a casual observer might otherwise miss. The map’s labels are legible, but do not visually distract from the focus on the underlying terrain. Viewers become intrigued by glacial geology, motivated to look for more drumlins, mounds, kettles, eskers, outwash channels, and fault scarps.

Important Steps

Assemble and resample Lidar-derived data to an appropriate resolution for the map scale.

Create multiple digital elevation models and hillshade layers with different visual parameters. Colorize and overlay layers for desired terrain visualization.

Keep labels clear but not distracting by using transparency and toned-down colors.

Use graphics software to enhance colors and smoothly blend raster layers.


Data & Software

Data sources: Washington State Department of Natural Resources, University of Washington, Washington Geological Survey, and Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources.

Software: ArcGIS Desktop and Adobe Creative Cloud


Create and blend multiple Lidar hillshades with varying parameters to create visually pleasing terrain. Blend multiple digital elevation model and relative elevation model layers with differing color ranges to emphasize low-lying areas and landforms.


This map took about eight days. Most of the time was spent creating the Lidar images and basemap. The rest was spent on labeling and descriptions.

Ancient Landscapes


When showing ancient landscapes, be sure to orient the reader by including contemporary landmarks such as present-day cities and coastlines.

Contrast is key


Contrast is key. Aim for simplification while maintaining great detail.

Map Author

Washington Geological Survey

Washington Geological Survey, a division of the Department of Natural Resources


Our mission is to collect, develop, use, distribute, and preserve geologic information. We work to promote safety, health, and welfare for the citizens of Washington, to protect the environment, and support the economy

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