National Park Service Park Tiles Built with TileMill and Hosted with MapBox

Today the National Park Service and MapBox announced the launch of Park Tiles. These are some absolutely beautiful tiles built with TileMill, hosted by MapBox and designed by the NPS. From the NPMap Blog:

Park Tiles is not meant to be a total replacement for any of the basemaps we currently use. It is, rather, meant to give us an alternative basemap we can use in custom projects where we’d like to see our National Parks highlighted. We’d also like to incorporate more detailed park information (such as campsites, visitor centers, trails, etc.) at larger scales that can serve both NPS employees and visitors.


Basically they want more control over their base layers than they do with basemaps from Bing, Esri and Google (probably even MapBox too). So they decided to use TileMill to author and MapBox to host these gorgeous maps. I encourage everyone to read that blog post by Mamata Akella because it goes into detail about the design, data and technology that make up these maps.

Long time Esri users may recognize Mamata because she was key in the development of the Esri world topographic map and the canvas maps. Well it seems she’s moved on to the NPS and is creating amazing maps using TileMill.

MapBox has some more information on the project including a really cool features available to MapBox users. I like how the map is layered so you can turn off parks, road shields and other features as you need to for your applications.

I can’t wait to see the detail get rendered for the whole country. You can view the maps online right now and if you click on the “Switch to Mt. Rainier” button, you’ll see the large scale prototype of Mt. Rainier National Park that uses all OSM data. Simply beautiful!



Ubuntu GIS

We go live at 11 am MST. The video feed will be below…

As always we’ll be talking on IRC. Join #hwjf on or online.


This Week’s Hangout:: Ubuntu GIS

We’ve got a great hangout this week, Matt Baker joins me to talk about using open source software for GIS, graphics, publishing and everything in between. What happens when you go all open source? Clearly you can not only do your job, but thrive. Matt will be screensharing so we’ll have some great examples.

Join us at 11am MST (10am PST) to learn more!

Matt’s also got some podcasts on using FOSS for geospatial. Part 1, Part 2


GIS is a Supermarket

Last week I mentioned that GIS applications are so hard to use in workflows. It’s like an old Yakov Smirnoff joke:

In the real world, software works for you.
In GIS, you work for the software!

It’s not to say you can’t get value out of traditional GIS packages, just that you’re locked into doing things their way. I was just about to write a clever analogy but I think I’ll keep this simple. When in your GIS package, you generally are limited to only their processing tools. While this does allow you to gain familiarity with their use, you end up making compromises to get things done. You can buy your groceries at the gas station convenience store, but you have to work hard to make it all happen (wait, did I just use analogy anyway?). It’s at the supermarket where you can choose from 20 different kinds of marinara sauce to get exactly the right one.

I really think GIS is like a supermarket. When you do your projects outside of these proprietary GIS applications, it gives you the freedom to pick and choose which analytical libraries you want to get each analysis done. I can use GDAL,,, R and even some Erdas to get my work done. Just how I’d make dinner, pulling different ingredients from different companies. Just like some nice ziti, you end up with great output and something that works wonderful with your work flows.


My feelings are GIS software should adapt to how I work, not the other way around. You should too…


Ian White Should be on Your Hangout

We go live at 10 am MST.

We’ll be talking on the IRC channel again so either use the IRC Web Client or better yet, point your IRC client to #hwjf on