Introduction to MazamaSpatialPlots

Rachel Carroll, Mazama Science



Maps colored by state and county (aka “chloropleth maps”) are among the most common data graphics and are used to convey everything from vote totals to economic and health statistics. Well designed maps involve a careful choice of map projections and colors for both the state/county fill and boundary lines. Unfortunately, creating beautiful maps in R is still somewhat involved.

The MazamaSpatialPlots package provides plotting functionality to make it as easy as possible to produce beautiful US state and county level maps. It builds on the excellent tmap package and harnesses datasets from the MazamaSpatialUtils package. High-level plotting functions make it easy for users to create beautiful chloropleth maps. The underlying code uses ggplot2 so users familiar with ggplot2 can easily enhance the returned plot objects to create highly customized plots.


This package is designed to be used with R (>= 3.5) and RStudio so make sure you have those installed first.

Users will want to install the devtools package to have access to the latest development version of the package from GitHub.

The following packages should be installed by typing the following at the RStudio console:

# Note that vignettes require knitr and rmarkdown

MazamaSpatialPlots requires spatial polygon data to plot the shapes of states and counties. These spatial datasets are provided by MazamaSpatialUtils and can be installed by running the following in the RStudio console:

dir.create('~/Data/Spatial', recursive = TRUE)


Currently, MazamaSpatialPlots contains high level functions for creating choropleth maps for US counties and states:

Additionally, MazamaSpatialPlots provides two example datasets formatted for use with the package’s functions:

Input Data

The SpatialPolygonsDataFrame used to create a state or county map is provided by the MazamaSpatialUtils package once that is installed.

State-level data

User provided data must be provided as simple dataframes. For the stateMap() function, the data input dataframe must have a stateCode column containing the 2-character US state code. Any other column of data can be used as the parameter by which states will be colored.

The following functions from MazamaSpatialUtils can help in creating the stateCode column if it does not already exist:

County-level data

For county maps, the input data must contain a countyFIPS column uniquely identifying each county. The MazamaSpatialUtils::US_countyCodes dataset can be used to determine the countyFIPS codes.

Example Maps

Example state map

Here we create a state map using the package example_US_stateObesity dataset showing the obesity rate for each state in the United States. A single call to the stateMap() function is all that is required. Customization is performed entirely through function arguments.


# Look at input data
#> # A tibble: 6 × 3
#>   stateCode stateName  obesityRate
#>   <chr>     <chr>            <dbl>
#> 1 TX        Texas             32.4
#> 2 CA        California        24.2
#> 3 KY        Kentucky          34.6
#> 4 GA        Georgia           30.7
#> 5 WI        Wisconsin         30.7
#> 6 OR        Oregon            30.1

# Create the map
  data = example_US_stateObesity,
  parameter = 'obesityRate',
  palette = 'BuPu',
  breaks = seq(20, 38, 3),
  stateBorderColor = 'white',
  title = "Obesity Rate in U.S. States"

Example county map

For the countyMap() example, we use COVID19 case data from June 01, 2020.

# Look at the input data
#> # A tibble: 6 × 6
#>   stateCode stateName countyFIPS countyName cases deaths
#>   <chr>     <chr>     <chr>      <chr>      <int>  <int>
#> 1 AL        Alabama   01001      Autauga      234      5
#> 2 AL        Alabama   01003      Baldwin      306      9
#> 3 AL        Alabama   01005      Barbour      173      1
#> 4 AL        Alabama   01007      Bibb          79      1
#> 5 AL        Alabama   01009      Blount        65      1
#> 6 AL        Alabama   01011      Bullock      210      6

# Create the map
  data = example_US_countyCovid,
  parameter = "cases",
  breaks = c(0,100,200,500,1000,2000,5000,10000,20000,50000,1e6),
  countyBorderColor = "white",
  title = "COVID19 Cases in U.S. States"