Category Archives: web mapping

Recreation Facilities around Lassen Volcanic National Park


Come git it outdoorsy nerds! Recreation facilities for all (developers)!

The Recreation Information Database (RIDB) is a comprehensive database containing authoritative outdoor recreation facility information for most US federal agencies that provide recreation services including the National Park Service, US Forest Service and many, many others.

I’ve been following the progress since its inception and when the USDA came out with an API to access it I dove in to make a web map to access recreation facilities, from a map.

The application is pretty straightforward. You can pan and zoom the map and recreation facilities will be display with recognizable icons within the current extent or, if zoom level is far out, a predefined radius based on zoom level. Clustering keeps things tidy. I also used the Mapzen Search service along with the Mapzen Leaflet Geocoder to provide autocomplete search capability.

Give it a try here:

Source project:

The Services:

Recreation Information Database API

Mapzen Search (geocoding API)

The Stack:


Leaflet marker cluster

Mapzen leaflet geocoder

Leaflet locate control

Mapbox for basemap


Autocomplete Map Search:

Autocomplete multi-source Search with ArcGIS REST services

Search First. Search is expected in modern web applications. And what better use of a map application than to start typing what you want, be shown a list of relevant suggestions, pick one and be taken there with potentially some useful context info.

In several posts in the great geospatial blog, MapBrief, Brian Timoney has mentioned a Search First approach to web application building. The most recent example:

Good Thing #1: A Big, Obvious Auto-Complete Text Entry Box

I couldn’t agree more. It is core to nearly every application I build and is of far greater use than most of the novelty web mapping ‘standard’ tools <uhem, looking at you, measure tool>.

Search is the number one request I get in web mapping applications so I thought I’d share how I put all the pieces together to get an autocomplete search up and running with esri ArcGIS REST services.

I’ll walk through the steps to get a fully functioning autocomplete map search feature.

Here’s the source on github and a working sample application.

Let’s build an autocomplete search box for recreation sites in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

This autocomplete solution uses twitter typeahead js, the bundled download includes the bloodhound suggestion engine and the jQuery plugin, all of which we’ll use here.

Once you get typeahead all hooked into your application, the only html you’ll need is an input for your search and the rest is done via javascript.

<input id="search-box" type="text" placeholder="Search...">

There are three parts to getting things going:

  1. Define and initialize suggestion engines
  2. Wireup typeahead with jQuery including adding the engines and defining the UI
  3. Handle the event when a user selects one of the suggestions

Define the Engines

First, we’ll define an engine (bloodhound) for each source to include. In this example we’ll use four:


A campground (arcgis) feature service layer


A trail head feature service layer


A ski area feature service layer


The esri geocoder service


Construct the remote source(s)

This is the most critical piece of the whole operation and requires some consideration because you potentially have options here. The remote source needs a url to send a request each time the user types characters. Selecting the best option will result in the best performance. Here are our best options with arcgis REST services:


If you have a map server, find is a great option if you want to search multiple layers in the same request. I’d say if you have this option, take it.


If you only have a feature server, this is for you. You can either query a layer individually or query the entire feature server. We are going to query each of our feature layers individually.


Suggest is currently meant for geocoding, for now, but I suspect a locator service could be constructed to take advantage of this service. I’ll make the assumption that this is the best option because it is intended specifically for search.

You could roll your own locator service that supports suggest (ArcGIS 10.3 +). We’ll use the world geocoder and take advantage of suggest.

The code to build the campground site suggestion search engine and initialize it:

Here’s the engine setup for the esri world geocoder service. Note the searchExtent parameter. This can be used to limit the geographic area of you suggestion results. In this case it is (roughly) Washington State.

You can see that in both of these engines we set the ajax property to show the spinner before the request and remove it when the request is complete. These calls can step over each other if you have several engines but works pretty well here.


Add the engines and style the suggestions

Now we need to setup typeahead itself and wire up the engines and tell typeahead the properties we are using for each suggestion generated by the engines. We will also define how the suggestions will be displayed in the drop down.

First, turn the input box into a typeahead via jQuery and set some options like so

minLength is the number of characters a user types before suggestions start firing.

Next tell typeahead about the engines to use, here’s our campground setup

We’ve just told typeahead that the name of this source is ‘camp’, the displayKey is ‘name’, the source is our camp bloodhound engine adapter and set the template to use for the header (a campground icon inside a header tag).

You’ll do the same for all sources chaining them together. The whole set of sources looks like this:

Define what will happen when a user selects a suggestion

Okay, cool, we’ve got some suggestions for our users.


Now we need to setup what will happen when one is actually selected. So we simply set up a jQuery event handler and chain it to our typeahead declaration. the event will pass the callback function the element and the selected datum (generated from the engine).

For the feature service layers we have set the datum to include the objectId (see the filter function in the bloodhound engine definition). This allows us to fetch the feature along with its’ geometry via another ajax call. We can then get attributes, zoom to it, make another call to get more info, whatever you want. In this sample we simply zoom to it and put a text label displaying the name right on the map.

For the geocoder a name and ‘magicKey’ are defined in the datum which allows us to call back to the service to retrieve the feature via a call to the find REST end point. For this one we simply zoom to the extent returned. Here’s the whole event handler:

That’s it, complete autocomplete.

You have an incredible amount of control over display via css as well. Here is what I’ve used in the sample app:

There are many more options available to you in this solution so please review the documentation for further info. I am very impressed with the flexibility of typeahead so if this setup doesn’t quite work for you I suspect there are ways to get it going.

BTW, If you are using esri-leaflet you can use the great geocoder plugin that also allows you to search via a geocoder service as well as map and feature services like we’re doing here.

Finally a shout out to Bryan McBride for his excellent mapping template, bootleaf, that I used as a starter for this solution.

The whole project is in a github repo here

And you can see it in action here


Many of the desktop GIS paradigms have unfortunately made their way to the web. Second only to the ‘Identify’ tool in popularity, the checkbox for toggling layers is still the most common way to turn map layers on and off. While I appreciate the simplicity it just doesn’t seem all that, well, elegant. And now that skeuomorphism is out and flat design is here to stay, the good ole checkbox might just be going the way of

This doesn’t hurt my feelings but it does leave some interesting voids and presents lots of possibilities.

Here’s my first departure from the old paradigm that I’m using pretty regularly. A sized
< div > floating directly over the map with some roundy edges and applying slight transparency. Position these togglable layer elements in a corner or off to the side and they work pretty well.
dual purpose layer toggler and legend

Set the css hover to cursor: pointer and change the background color and it becomes obvious that you can interact with it. Adding an icon can be used to invite users and indicate what it does. This allows you to maximize space by using the element for both togglability and as a legend. Moving the element into the background by lightening the background color, removing the border and changing the icon indicates its in-visibility. Conversely, applying a solid border, increasing opacity and swapping icons give the visual cue that this thing is live.

the css:

Wire up a click event for each togglable-layer element to toggle the visibility of the layer on the map and also to toggle css classes that visually indicate the visibility state of that layer.

the js:

You can see this in action,
demo of togglable layers
using recreation sites at Wenatchee National Forest

Source of demo on github.

I realize that there is a growing contingency of ‘no GIS’ proponents who would do away with the concept of turning layers of data on and off and, in some contexts, I agree. But there are many use cases where this can be extremely powerful and, if done well, dare I say, elegant.

Updated geoconverter: { geoJson } <> { arcJson }

I put together a simple geo-converter a while back (and posted about it) that converts geojson to arcjson\esrijson. I needed it to get some polygons in an arcgis feature service. I have updated that converter to also convert from arcjson to geojson as well. I used it to pull arcjson from an ArcGIS Feature Service via a query against the REST API and convert the results to geojson.

The geoconverter tool


I pulled the arcjson formatted data from City of Fort Collins ArcGIS web services

A query against the Neighborhoods layer, like so:{%22xmin%22%3a-122%2c%22ymin%22%3a40%2c%22xmax%22%3a-80%2c%22ymax%22%3a50%2c%22spatialReference%22%3a{%22wkid%22%3a4326}}&inSR=4326&spatialRel=esriSpatialRelIntersects&where=%28HOODDESC+IS+NOT+NULL%29&outSR=4326&outFields=*&f=json

Results into the geoconverter


Created a MapBox map with it


And here’s some geojson to try out, Major League Baseball Stadiums
raw data

Play ball!

geoJson > arcJson

So I put together a dead simple interface to convert geojson to arcjson using the esri geojson utils repo on github. I also threw in a feature to view it on a map, but its spotty…

source available

It truly is a wrapper around geojson utils.

Include, create, use

I ended up doing this for a few reasons: I wanted to try out the awesome geoJson creation and editing tool by And I also wanted to play with the new Boostrap 3 flatness, a significant departure from the old version in both workings and looks.

The idea hit me when I found myself in need of a course polygon dataset representing world regions and I wanted to be able to publish them to a map service for use in an ArcGIS Javascript API application. It was super simple to create the handful of regions I needed with and I ended up with geoJson polygons in just a few minutes. I then needed to get them into an ArcGIS feature service. Uh oh, although it’s looking increasingly imminent, geoJson is not supported in the ArcGIS world currently. So here we are.

The new allowed me to quickly create and publish a new feature service to contain the new data. I just copied the output from, pasted it into a text box, hit the button and I had arcJson. Another copy and paste to get it into the feature service rest endpoint, addFeatures and I had my regions in my map service.

A note that if you need the same workflow you need to ‘unwrap’ the output arcjson into just the array of features i.e. remove the outter ‘features’ object before pasting into an addFeatures end point. Peel off this bit here and the very last curly too:



Definitely ‘innovation time’ as this is just a bridge across the open water until esri provides full support for geojson. Let me know if you find it useful.

naip wms | mapbox satellite

On Tuesday MapBox announced the release of its new Satellite layer based, partially, on NAIP imagery in the US. So I said I’d like to test it for speed against the NAIP Web Map Service (WMS) hosted by USGS National Map I’m currently using.

I was initially planning to do some benchmarking on tile load speed etc but really, it just isn’t necessary. One zoom or pan of each will tell you that MapBox is faster, hands down. So since what I do is highly visual, and because it’s a helluvah lot more fun, I simply dropped the two maps side by side and wired up some events such that, as one side is panned or zoomed, the other is set to the same resulting extent. Some flying around in either map will indeed confirm the hypothesis that MapBox is faster. But this didn’t turn out to be the most interesting part really. You can see that the quality is higher with higher contrast and crispy colors on the MapBox side. I did not alter saturation, hues etc of the imagery but simply left the default. Lots of interesting experimentation to be done there too.

Take a look for yourself and you’ll see which is faster. You will likely also discover more interesting comparisons.

Pro tip: go full screen (F11 in Firefox and Chrome)

Hat tip: And it’s centered on DC by default, for @cageyjames  – I get it, I used to be west coast.

So if you’re looking for hard data on tile loading speeds, sorry, I’ve got no numbers. I’m sure I could rig some JavaScript to test the loading speeds and gather number of tiles loaded etc., but this setup doesn’t lend itself to rigorous, fair testing for a few reasons anyway.

  1. There isn’t a map event in Leaflet that fires when all tiles are loaded (didn’t consider using anything else)
  2. Map events are wired such that a slight advantage is given to the target map
  3. MapBox Satellite also has roads and labels so a bit more load (handicap, like bowling)