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To begin, you may ask “why would I want to make a map with R? R is one of several methods you could choose to make a map.

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R is free, it is open source, and users are constantly contributing new packages and functions.There is always talk of the steep learning curve in R, but I think the Arc GIS learning curve is just as steep if not more so.After taking a semester-long course that only taught Arc Map, I still barely grazed the surface of the capabilities of the software.And because I am not making maps every day, I have quickly forgotten many of the functions within Arc Map.With R, I can write a well-annotated script and then come back to it months or years later and say “ah, yes, that’s how I did this, let me do that now with my new data.” If you are already an R user, then making maps will be quite simple and intuitive since many of the functions take the same or similar arguments as plotting other types of figures.

Plus, you have all of R’s online help which is an incredible wealth of knowledge and is how I’ve learned everything I’m about to tell you.

And not to harp on it, but one last favorite reason for making maps in R is that it is a cinch to go back to my data file and add or edit a sample point, re-run my script, and bam: I have a new map that is identical to my old one plus my newly added or edited point. Make a Simple Map Now that I have successfully convinced you that you want to use R to make your next map, I will show you how.

To start, let’s just make a blank map with none of our own data.

Surfer is a full-function contouring and surface modeling package that runs under Microsoft Windows.

Surfer is used extensively for terrain modeling, bathymetric modeling, landscape visualization, surface analysis, contour mapping, watershed and 3D surface mapping, gridding, viewshed analysis, volumetrics, and much more.

First off, thanks to Tim and Jeremy for the invitation to write a guest post here on using R to make maps!