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how does Garmin Develop its Marine Charts?




by | Last updated: Feb 25, 2024

Garmin's Quest for Cutting-Edge | Marine Mapping


As someone whose life has revolved around cruising, boat building, and the pursuit of the perfect anchorage, I’ve always appreciated precision in marine mapping.

Garmin, known for innovation in marine electronics, has been my trusted companion for years aboard the “MV HUNA.”

Today, I’m diving into Garmin’s marine mapping program and discovering how Garmin Develops Its Marine Charts and mapping.


Garmin’s marine mapping program isn’t just about charts; it’s about uncovering the secrets of our favorite fishing spots and cruising grounds.

While they do leverage plenty of third-party data, they go the extra mile and have dedicated survey teams that hit the water to gather firsthand information.

These teams understand that the devil is in the details.



So, where does Garmin get its map data?


Garmin Navionics+ information comes from multiple public and private sources, including government and Hydrographic Office charts as well as Garmin’s survey data gathered by their dedicated survey teams, as well as community sonar logs.

They integrate all sorts of new data from official hydrographic services and private entities. The goal is to generate detailed mapping that goes well beyond official hydrographic office charts.

They select different sources for various areas to maintain high standards and ensure the best possible detail.

Only Garmin and Navionics deliver updates in such an incredibly timely way. On average, they integrate new data within 15 to 30 days of its original source publication.

This new data includes but is not limited to notices to mariners, ENC data S57, surveys, and more.

The dedication of Garmin’s survey teams strikes a chord with me. When there’s a need for enhanced mapping, they’re out there, enduring long hours on the water.

They meticulously chart depth contours, and create high-resolution relief shading content, using vibrant colors and shadows to bring the seabed to life. The level of detail is impressive.



How does the Power of Sonar Technology factor in?


Using the latest cutting-edge sonar technology and there own survey teams they build a chart of not just the general depths but also the detail of the composition of the seabed.

This creates bottom hardness maps, uncovering roadbeds, rocky or sandy bottoms, and more, provides invaluable insights for anyone passionate about fishing.


Garmin | Ultra High Definition Sideview Sonar


Why Collaboration with Users matter.


Garmin understands that mapping is a collective effort, and they actively engage with users to enhance mapping detail.

Users of Garmin chart plotters and Striker fishfinders can contribute sonar data through the Quickdraw Contours feature.

This data-sharing not only benefits individual boaters and anglers but also improves data for entire communities in highly trafficked boating areas.

This collaborative effort expands Garmin’s mapping coverage to previously uncharted bodies of water, creating a community-driven endeavor that benefits everyone. Its reviewed and added to the chart updates when needed. 


Using Garmin Quickdraw Contours to build charts thru collaboration

Garmin | Quickdraw Contours


Charting the World's Lakes and Inland Waters is a big job.


Garmin’s commitment extends to charting more than 44,000 lakes worldwide, and they continue to source new data to ensure boaters and anglers can access accurate information wherever they go.

Whether you’re in search of the perfect fishing spot or a serene boating location, Garmin’s maps have you covered.


A perfect example: The Lake Martin Survey

Some time ago, Garmin’s survey teams descended upon Lake Martin, dedicating an entire month to a project that promised to transform angling on this picturesque lake.

The team, aimed to develop a high-definition map of the lake bottom. The result was a LakeVü HD Ultra map on a micro SD card that showcased underwater structures, humps, and fish habitats.

This invaluable resource helps fishermen identify productive sites and enhances the angling experience on Lake Martin.


Morning on Lake Martin


Marina Navigation:


Garmin’s marine mapping also includes detailed marina information, with essential details such as phone numbers, addresses, and available facilities like gas stations, ramps, and hospitality services.

Additionally, the maps offer depth soundings and bathymetry within and around marinas, making docking and navigation a little less stressful.


Abaco | Boat Harbour Marina


For the Next Generation: Mapping Protected and Restricted Areas


Garmin prioritizes environmental stewardship. They collect marine protected area information from various sources and embed it within their charts.

This ensures that boaters are aware of the type of restrictions in place, promoting safety and environmental conservation.



Changing Shorelines: Adapting to Nature


Nature changes, and so do our shorelines. Garmin’s cartography teams continuously review and redraw coastal, lake, and river shorelines as they evolve over time.

This commitment to accuracy ensures that users have the most reliable maps at their fingertips.



Charting the Way Forward


As a seasoned cruiser, I have “learned” the importance of having accurate and up-to-date mapping solutions. 

Garmin combines traditional cartographic principles with cutting-edge technology to ensure we can navigate the world’s waterways with confidence, whether we are searching for that undiscovered hidden cove, exploring bustling marinas, or searching for the perfect fishing hole.



6 most asked questions about Garmin Marine Mapping:


► What marine maps do Garmin Marine GPS Chartplotters use?

  • Before 2023: BlueChart G3 Coastal Charts & LAKEVÜ G3 Inland Maps & Vision
  • After 2023-24: Garmin Navionics+ and Garmin Navionics Vision+



► How often does Garmin update marine maps?

  • Garmin publishes chart updates twice a year.

Chartplotters with built-in mapping or a preloaded chart card may require updates. Both types of chart updates are available for purchase through Garmin Express or the ActiveCaptain App.



► Does Garmin use Navionics maps?

  • Yes, but not Navionics chart cards.

As of now, Garmin Chartplotters can only use Garmin cards with Navionics data. You can’t just plug a Navionics card into a Garmin Chartplotter.

Garmin Navionics+ and Garmin Navionics Vision+ cartography provide superior coverage, clarity, and detail with integrated Garmin and Navionics coastal and inland content, including Auto Guidance+ technology.



► What is the difference between a Garmin fishing chart and a navigation chart?

  • The Navigation Chart is optimized for navigation. You can plan a course, view map information, and use the chart as a navigational aid. To open the Navigation Chart, select Charts > Navigation Chart.
  • The Fishing Chart provides a detailed view with more bottom detail and fishing content.



► When did Garmin acquire Navionics?

In late 2018, Garmin acquired Navionics, the global manufacturer of nautical charts and mobile applications for the marine industry.

“Navionics has long been known as a leading manufacturer of highly accurate nautical charts and mobile applications for mariners worldwide,” said Cliff Pemble, president and CEO of Garmin.

“By combining Navionics content with Garmin’s BlueChart and BlueChart Vision content, we will be able to offer the best coverage available in terms of breadth and depth of coverage to our marine customers.

Going forward, we intend to maintain the Navionics brand and continue to service Navionics’ existing customers.”



► Which Chartplotters are Garmin Navionics+ Mapping compatible with?

Garmin Navionics+ and Garmin Navionics Vision+ accessory cards and downloads are available and compatible with the:


  • ECHOMAP UHD2 Series
  • ECHOMAP UHD Series – 7x | 9x
  • ECHOMAP Ultra Series – 10x | 12x


  • GPSMAP Series – 7×2 Plus | 9×2 Plus | 12×2 Plus
  • GPSMAP Series – 7×3 | 9×3 | 12×3 & Volvo Penta models*
  • GPSMAP 9000
  • GPSMAP 8400 | 8600 | 8700 & Volvo Penta models*
  • GPSMAP 10×2 | 12×2 Keyed
  • GPSMAP 12×2 Touch


* Important Note: If your unit came with built-in Garmin Navionics+, it will not be compatible with a BlueChart g3 map card.




A “very” detailed video from Garmin on Navionics+ & Navionics Vision+ mapping.

Rodney L.

Rodney L.

NavGuy | Lead Writer

Charter Boat Captain, Avid Cruiser, Boat Builder & Marine Electronics Pro:

With over a decade of experience in the marine electronics industry and over 30 years of cruising the Bahamas on boats of all kinds, Rodney is well-positioned to help boaters of all levels sift through the many choices we have today in marine electronics.

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