I've recently begun playing around with some really cool online tools that can tell you a lot about the land around you (or land you've had your eye on). The first tool is the Web Soil Survey. This one will work anywhere in the U.S. This survey used to be published in a great many volumes, a few of which could have been found at your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Office. Now, lucky for us, everything is compiled into one handy online tool (that takes a while to load...). Follow the instructions, play around with it, and learn a little something about the land you're on (or looking at!)--why that one field is always a little wetter in spring, and why that other field always seems to need a little extra irrigation. It's especially useful for those looking to purchase farmland!
The second tool comes to us from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources; The Natural Resources Atlas Online. This tool contains layer and layers (and layers) of data. It took me a little while to get the hang of it and I haven't quite mastered it yet but with some practice there is much to be learned from the various layers. I learned a lot just by zooming in on where I live and clicking and un-clicking the various boxes. This tool could be useful for finding out the likelihood of flooding (click the box for "Watershed Protection"-"Special Flood Hazard Areas"), what watershed you're in (click "Watershed Protection"-"Watershed Planning Basins"), and if there are rare or endangered wildlife living near you (click "Fish and Wildlife"-"Rare Threatened Endangered Species").