Learn More: Lake Bathymetric Maps

What does this mean?

This is the latest available contour map of the lake's bottom. This map can be used to determine where "holes" (deep spots) exist on the lake bottom. Such areas are often productive for freshwater fishing. Bathymetry is defined as the measurement of water depth at various places in a body of water.

The level of a lake changes over time, so to be meaningful a bathymetric map must indicate the lake level at the time it was made. The height of the lake's surface is specified relative to a geodetic reference point known as a "vertical datum." Common vertical datums are NGVD29 and NAVD88. NGVD29 is the older of the two and most agencies have converted, or are in the process of converting, their data to NAVD88.

NGVD29 is an abbreviation for "The National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929," a standard that was based on a fixed calculation of sea level computed by using data from 26 tide gauges in the US and Canada."

The North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88) is a vertical control datum established in 1991. It is based on mean sea level height as well, that of a single point in Quebec, Canada.

More information about vertical datums, including how they are calculated and employed, can be found on the website of the National Geodetic Survey: https://www.ngs.noaa.gov/faq.shtml#Datums

How are the data collected? (Methods)

Bathymetry Imaging Models

A Bathymetric Map is similar to a contour map. In making a bathymetric map a SONAR depth finder is used along with a Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS). Researchers map a course around the perimeter of a lake and then navigate parallel transects using the depth finder to store various depths of the lake in a consistent pattern. This data is then used to create a map showing the contour of the bottom of the lake. Florida LAKEWATCH, at the University of Florida's Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, may also provide data.

Video showing the process:


GIS (ArcView/ArcInfo) processing using Triangulated Irregular Network commands.

Caveats and Limitations

Many lakes have not been professionally surveyed in order to accurately determine their elevations. This limits the number of lakes that can be meaningfully mapped in the near future.

Bathymetric maps herein are for educational purposes only and are not to be used for navigation or professional survey reference.