Maps - Are there still Hidden Roads?

A coworkers dad is a retired surveyor for the government. He told stories of certain roads, used by the military, being left off official maps. Or, perhaps showing them as simple unimproved roads. Nothing that tanks or other heavy trucks could use. :wink:

I’m not sure if he was pulling our legs or not. It does make sense that special roads leading to missile silos or other secure facilities shouldn’t be listed on maps. I’ve heard the city of Oakridge TN, built to house workers for the Manhattan project, was a classified secret. They didn’t want outsiders even knowing there was a town there at that time.

Anyone have the straight dope on keeping secrets off maps? Are they still doing that in the Satellite age?

For the record, I live in Arkansas and have driven near the Titan II Missile sites. We had 18 of them. Scary as hell, knowing they were on the Soviet nuclear target list. I’m glad they are gone. Those roads were n the maps in the 1970’s. I’m not sure if they were in the late 40’s when those sites were built.

I’ve often heard maps are hard to find in totalitarian countries. It’s hard to launch a revolution if you don’t know where bases and other facilities are located.

Not quite perfectly related, but my company publishes a geographical database of sorts and we have added a few non-existant cities/towns. This is so that if someone copies our data and re-publishes it, we will be able to determine that it came from us.

Several years ago, I tried to look up a street map of the Air Force base I largely grew up on (7th grade through 12th) on Google Maps. The area was greyed out. I assume this was due to 9/11, but don’t know for sure. I just checked again and you can now see the streets.

Try growing up on a SAC base. Everyone knew we were a prime target, but never talked about it. Didn’t really think about it much, but certain things around the base were indicative of our status if you did think about them.

I know of one example in Sweden, the location can be seen on the actual map but it’s not visible in the aerial photograpy on Eniro. Compare this to what you can see on Google.
Don’t ask me who came up with the idea or why they even bother though.

I once worked in a building which had been wiped off of Google maps. You could just see the shadow if you knew where to look.

We assumed it had something to do with the 3rd and 4th floors. They were always keyed off from the elevator and stairways.

There are quite a few roads around Quantico Virginia that don’t appear either.

According to Wiki, the BT Tower in London was officially a secret and was not on official maps until the 90s.


I was about 4, I think, when my Dad took me for a hotdog at the stand in the center of the courtyard at his office building (The Pentagon.) He told me it was called “The Ground Zero Bar” by the people there. I don’t think he expected me to understand what that meant.

I’ve lived my whole life on ground zero, and it’s difficult to explain to other people what that feels like. How the evening news has a completely different import; and no, I haven’t missed a SOTU speech since third grade. (Well, this year’s is still in the DVR due to toddler issues . . . but)

Yeah. IOW, I understand what you mean.


Free-flowing information has been slowly but surely eating away at these “secret” roads and buildings.

A few years ago, you could not find the Concord Naval Weapons Station on Microsoft’s Terraserver or Google Maps/Earth - it was just blocked out. However, Russian-sourced aerial images were not hard to find on the web.

Now, all of the bunkers, tracks and roads are plainly visible on Google, even if maps still don’t show them - the GPS in my vehicle shows the main road ending a few yards past the gate, and a lot of empty space.

It doesn’t have anything to do with national security, but some of the larger strip mine complexes in places like Kentucky and West Virginia are as large as towns and have road systems that are as well developed. They don’t appear on maps.

The roof of the White House used to be greyed out on Google Earth. So was Dick Cheney’s place (Naval observatory). Nowadays, both are easily visible. Several other parts were blocked at one time - Sheepvaart in the Amsterdam harbour is still pixellated, even though it is a public museum (as well as a military base, I presume). The fact that the Netherlands can make (or persuade) Google to show or not show gives you an idea how much could be hidden. OTOH, I can make out the tennis courts and the one-hole golf course at Camp David (if I have it right -who else has a 1-holer?). You can even look at the cars in the parking areas. So… it seems that sensitivity to public sight is down a few notches over the years.


You know the place where thousands of soldiers and their families live. Thats a base. Very easy to find.

I think what you are thinking about are terrain maps.

When I was in Pyongyang, North Korea one could buy street maps of the city.

Could the explanation here be as simple as Google using a more recent image than eniro? I don’t know anything about this location, but I’ve run into that before when playing similar games.

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eniro is a neat site. Its maps are much prettier than Google maps, but it only lets you see past zoom level 3 in Scandinavia. Sometimes it appears to load data outside and then obscure the area with black. Couldn’t reproduce it, but still fun to play with.

Were you allowed to bring them home? It would be neat to compare them to what Google shows. (Incidentally, the map layer of Google is completely blank for the DPRK. Masses of highways and town names outside the borders… nothing inside.)

Censored areas from

The current Cambridge University Library exhibition Under Covers on the history of spying has a nice section explaining how the UK’s Ordnance Survey, the official mapping agency, obliterated sensitive sites on the sheets of the photographic survey of the country conducted over 1947-53, This was the Google Earth of its day and basically publically available, so they had to overlay images of fields onto military installations.
I believe a similar policy remains in place for sensitive installations - thus, until at least recently, OS printed maps with greyed-out prisons.

It certainly was the case during WWII. That changed during August 1945.

On a related note, the official Michigan Department of Transportation highway map briefly featured the towns of Goblu and Beatosu in the “spillover” northern Ohio portion of the map.