The Geological Survey of Canada has been making surficial geology observations since it was founded in 1842. In addition to geological interest, early surficial geology information was gathered to aid in agriculture, forestry, hydrogeology, and engineering. The first regional surficial geology map was published in 1863, and since the early 1880's systematic surficial geology mapping has been a facet of the Survey's work.The first surficial geology specialist, R. Chalmers, worked for the Geological Survey during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. From then until 1930, when an official surficial geology unit was established, the Survey always had at least one surficial geologist on staff. From 1930 until 1960 groundwater-related studies were a major focus of surficial geology work. From 1950 to 1970 surficial geology mapping efforts were expanded to meet the demands generated by a booming economy. Since 1970 in addition to traditional uses, surficial geology information has been adapted to locating orebodies and evaluating environmental impacts.Early map legends presented surficial materials as stratigraphic units, or in terms of genesis and texture with little description or explanation. By the 1930's, the legend had evolved into a brief descriptive paragraph similar to that used on many Geological Survey of Canada maps today. With demands of the 1970's and 1980's for detailed descriptive information, especially to aid in assessing environmental impacts, new parameter legends were developed and extensive descriptive tables attached to maps. The current challenge is to adapt surficial geology mapping to the world of the geographic information system.