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Posted on November 6th, 2018

Map Mavin Case Study – Planning a Family Reunion to Yellowstone

In this month’s Map Mavin case study, we learn how easy it is to plan a vacation with other people despite being geographically distant from each other. In this example, we imagine that a large family who lives all over the United States is trying to plan their yearly reunion. Usually they have hour-long debates over the phone while they are all looking at different places on their computers, only to make zero progress towards deciding on a location. This year, however, they’re determined to do it differently. With Yellowstone National Park as their destination, the need for an informative map becomes clear, and Map Mavin provides the easiest and most convenient outlet for creating a web map and sharing it with others.

To some, nothing is more important than family. Thus, the planning of a family reunion turns out to be quite a big deal, and particularly so when the size of the family is enormous. Therefore, a great option for the final destination is a large national park, where everyone can go to unplug from their busy lives and remember to appreciate the little things. The family does a little research, and they stumble upon Yellowstone, one of the largest national parks in the United States; and it’s not too far from their home state of Colorado. With other family members sprinkled through Montana and the Midwest, it is the perfect option, but none of them have ever been, nor do they know anything about it. With Map Mavin, one of the family members tackles the obstacle head on, by creating a feature-filled web map to educate the rest of the members with. Christy, mother of three, has a whooping zero hours of experience with any GIS or map-making software, yet she demands the perfect reunion. She decides to look into web mapping services, stumbles upon Map Mavin and the rest is history…

Check out this short video to see how Christy and her family used Map Mavin to plan their trip to Yellowstone.

In order to make the map, Map Mavin first directed Christy toward uploading spatial layers. Lucky for her, she has access to Map Mavin’s own Data Portal! With over 11,000 free layers, she searched for keywords like Yellowstone and Montana. However, she did not have much luck, and navigated elsewhere in search of free information about the park. She stumbled upon the open data website for the National Park Service,, and also found another open data portal associated with Natural Resource Stewardship and Science,

After downloading a bunch of layers, she uses the bulk upload option which allows her to upload files such as KMZs, KMLs, shapefiles, GeoTIFFs and GeoJSONs. She goes through each layer to make sure the title and description are accurate, as well as symbolizes them to make the information clearer and easier to see. She displays the campsites as tent icons, the visitors centers and back country cabins change to small houses, and X’s mark the closure spots. Prioritizing the highway and geologic features near the top of her table of contents, she hopes to make it obvious for her other family members why she has chosen the spots she did. To make things even easier, she adds mark-ups in the Map View for each of the primary regions and junctions within Yellowstone National Park.

After a few finishing touches, she’s ready to share her interactive web map with her family, hoping to avoid the regular 48-hour debate that usually follows discussions of family events. She sends the link out and tells everyone to make an account– its free, you don’t even need to put in your credit card. Since she is already familiar with the map, she efficiently goes through vacations options with everyone following her attentively, and occasionally offering up feedback. This is going smoother than usual, she thinks to herself.

Following a brief discussion, the family concludes that her suggestions of where to camp and where to play during the day are acceptable. Thanks to Map Mavin, this year’s reunion planning was the least stressful and most rewarding experience yet. With no experience in cartography or with GIS, it is unusual to be able to construct such a useful map, and in such a short amount of time too. Thanks to Map Mavin, Christy was able to take charge of the situation and create a map that included seasonal closures, bear management areas, back country camp sites, visitor’s centers, trails, geologic features, and more! Not only did she make a fantastic map, but she also was able to share it with every interested party by only sending them a link, and they could even sign-up and see the map for free!

Jake Zatz
Map Mavin Intern

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