How to Read a Street-Orienteering Map

by Emus Orienteering Club
(Serving orienteering in the Northern and Western suburbs of Melbourne)




In Street-Orienteering you are given a black and white map that provides a very detailed view of the area that you will walk/run in. The sample map below shows a map that was used for a recent event - while this one is not pure black and white, the colours shown illustrate the key points very well.

Things you need to know about a Street-O Map

  • Streets and roads are shown as solid black lines or dashed lines for tracks. In general, no street names are shown on the map (except perhaps for boundary roads - as a safety precaution). Some of the major roads - or divided roads are shown as thicker or two distinct lanes.
  • Areas where you can move through - such as parks, ovals, vacant lots are shown in white
  • The start area is marked with a triangle
  • There are 20 controls on the map; these are shown as circles, numbered 1 to 20. Usually, the each control circle has a dot in its centre or is skewed to one side to indicate the precise location of the control.
  • There are control descriptions which tell you what you’re looking for as you approach a control (e.g. light pole or park bench). In some cases a control description can contain a number - e.g. Light Pole (36) - in this case the light pole is the one outside house number 36. (Note that in the map above - all controls are on light poles).
  • The light brown lines shown are contour lines - in moderate areas, these are usually 5m contours, in hillier areas they could be 10m contours - it's wise to check the master map or ask the course setter before you run. If you don't understand how to interpret contour lines, see our training guide on Reading Contour Lines

Map Symbols

When you first start orienteering, you'll notice that there's a bunch of squiggly lines and various shapes on your map - each of these represents an object or terrain feature that you will encounter if you run in that direction. The table below shows some of the more commonly used symbols:

A fence - crossable
An un-crossable fence (yes, I know that to some people  nothing is un-crossable - but it is high and you could hurt yourself. This symbol means - please do not cross this fence - i.e. not to be crossed).
Creek - the direction of the arrows shows the direction of water flow. We generally ask people not to cross creeks - there is a danger from snakes in some areas and climbing down the banks causes erosion.
Bridge - where you can cross creeks and other obstacles
Cliff - the whiskers point down the slope.
Building - the shape of the black area is usually based on the shape of the building
Man-made object - in a park, this might be a park bench or a seat.
  P A play-park or play-equipment - quite frequent in suburban maps

Training Index

What is Street-Orienteering?

Golden Rules for ALL Street-Orienteers

How to Read a Street-Orienteering Map

How to Read Contours

Taking part in your first Scatter Course

Taking part in your first Score Course

How to read contours

Street-O Strategy - a Guide for Beginners

Emus Home Page




We hope you enjoyed reading this material.

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