GRAVE SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Hover to zoom, or press and hold on mobile. Original is 36″ x 24″.

I remember starting this spooky map in September 2019 and being very pleased over the fact that I had so many weeks to finish it in time for Halloween.

I did not finish in time for Halloween.

Local histories and lore were a big part of what interested me about this region and got me interested in making a map of the area. To help share that history with the reader, I included a lot of stories right on the map. I knew I wanted to use 3D to highlight the mountainous terrain and chose an isometric perspective (which preserves size and distance for everything regardless of its relation to the foreground) to keep the cemeteries furthest from the reader from getting all jumbled together or hidden behind mountain peaks. A lot of time was spent fiddling with imagery, elevation models, and color ramps to get the misty, obscured lowlands and muted colors. Then I dimmed everything outside of the park to show its extent, rather than using a traditional boundary line, which felt distracting. The Cherokee names scattered throughout remind us that the cultural history of the region did not begin with these European pioneers.

I spent more time than I care to admit creating the floating ring symbols, which come with a bit of baked-in uncertainty for each location, but what I’m most proud of is the neatline. It features actual epitaphs taken from headstones around the park. I collected some of these personally on a last-minute camping trip to the park, while others were collected from online photographs and transcriptions.

This map was featured in the Atlas of Design Vol 5. Treat your bookshelf to a copy—there are many more maps amazing maps within! It also was recognized with several awards at the 2020 ESRI User Conference, including ‘Best Cartography’, ‘Cartography Special Interest Group Excellence, and 2nd place within the Reference Map category.

Aaron Koelker
Please contact me if you\'d like to use or feature my work, I\'d be happy to share it.