MapCarte 100/365: The Heart of the Grand Canyon by the National Geographic Society, 1978


Bradford and Barbara Washburn were mountaineers, explorers and cartographers.  During an impressive career they were strongly supported by the National Geographic Society and many of Bradford Washburn’s maps are unrivaled in the realm of mountain cartography.

It took seven years and numerous skilled individuals to survey and map the Grand Canyon at 1:24,000.  Washburn’s original maps were combined by Lockwood Mapping, cliff-drawing was by Rudi Dauwalder and Alois Flury in Switzerland and relief-shading crafted by Tibor Toth at National Geographic.  Browns bear similarity with natural wood and textures help immerse readers in the landscape.  The colour transition of the landscape from the vivid green plateaus to the ocher red canyon arms to the deep brown-grey valleys and turquoise waters creates a stunning contrast.  The colour palette is exquisite.


At such a scale, Washburn was able to represent the Canyon in a way never before seen and as a large format poster the map remains a classic National Geographic product for which the Washburns received the Alexander Graham Bell Medal for “unique and notable contributions to geography and cartography.” Maps are simply not made like this any more. It’s the epitome of dedication and commitment to the craft of making a map.

It’s a spectacular map that represents  some of the very best in terms of data acquisition as well as detail, accuracy and cartographic representation. The fact that the map has such a strong aesthetic is the icing on an already impressive cake. If only all maps were made to this standard!

One thought on “MapCarte 100/365: The Heart of the Grand Canyon by the National Geographic Society, 1978

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