USGS Photo Library

Posted by on Aug 27, 2008 in Photos | No Comments

The USGS has recently scanned over 40,000 (and adding more) archival images. All available to view and download at no cost – and at very high resolutions. I can see myself spending a lot of time browsing through the photos, many dating back over 100 years.

These photos tell a rich, detailed story about the evolution of the American West. A history that is not really all that old. It has only been 200 years since Lewis and Clark explored the West. And still today the wild and mysterious places remain. Despite the many years of survey and mapping and discovering, there are still blank spots on the maps of the mountains.

In addition to many early photos of the West, there are pictures from all over the country. Again, becoming a fantastic pictorial history of the United States.

Aerial view south of Salem showing pre-Lake Bonneville alluvial fan at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains cut by shoreline terraces of Lake Bonneville. Utah County, Utah. Circa 1940. Figure 24, in U.S.Geological Survey Professional paper 257. 1963.

Mount Timpanogos, at head of basin 10, showing approximately horizontal strata, elevation of summit is 11,750 feet. Utah County, Utah. circa 1905, plate 11-B in U.S. Geological Survey. Professional paper 61. 1909.

J. F. Hunter and his outfit used in studying the pre-Cambrian area of Gunnison Canyon. Colorado. November 30, 1911. F-stop 8, 1/50 seconds.

Marshall Pass, viewed from the hills on the south. This pass was discovered in 1873, by Lt. William L. Marshall. Its striking feature is the lack of ruggedness that characterizes many of the other passes through the Rocky Mountains. Saguache County, Colorado. July 23, 1905. Plate 69-A in U.S. Geological Survey. Bulletin 707.


  1. Corey
    August 27, 2008

    Wow, I just rode through Marshall Pass last weekend. It doesn’t look much different.

  2. Ski Bike Junkie
    August 27, 2008

    As if I had time to look through all of those photos. I’m sure I will anyway.

  3. Dave
    August 28, 2008

    That is so cool. Glad my tax $$ are going to a use of which I approve!

    (I’m not being sarcastic. For real!)

  4. Carney
    August 28, 2008

    Awesome!! I have a minor obsession with old photos!!

  5. Jim
    August 28, 2008

    A friend of mine has a book of the Black Hills where the author took the old lithographs from Custer’s tour (a year before the fateful Little Bighorn Battle), found the exact locations where the lithographs were taken from and took modern day photos. The book was complete with GPS coordinates so you could stand in the same spots too (I know, geeky, but even geeky is cool to some of us). The differences and similarities were very interesting. In some, the trees have overtaken the view. But the most striking was one where a piece of dead wood was still in the exact same location almost 150 years later!

  6. Chris
    August 28, 2008

    Amazing pictures. I’m going to kill some serious time. Thanks for sharing the link!

    Keyword search: glacier

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