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USGS Geospatial Data Sources

Topics: Aerial photography, orthoimagery, maps, satellite imagery, geospatial products, GIS data clearinghouse

Length: One class period

Type of Resource Being Described: Various Links


Links to various digital geospatial data sites from both the USGS and its partner agencies, including The National Map, EarthExplorer, GloVis, and many others. Provides resources for various downloadable map and imagery products.


Locate freely available geospatial products


Use this links to find digital geospatial data sites. 

Primary Sources of FREE USGS Geospatial Data

  • The National Map- Go to The National Map Download Client to download US Topo and historical topographic maps, and data for the United States for various themes to include: 1) Boundaries; 2) Elevation Products (3DEP); 3) Elevation Source Data (3DEP); 4) Hydrography (NHD) and Watersheds (WBD); 5) Imagery from High Resolution Orthoimagery and National Agriculture Imagery Program; 6) Map Indices; 7) Geographic Names; 8) Land Cover; 9) Structures; 10) Transportation; and 11) Woodland. Contours are under Elevation Products, and lidar point clouds are under Elevation Source Data.
  • Earth Explorer*- Download data from more than 300 data collections that span over 75 years of coverage. Includes USGS satellite imagery, historical and recent USGS aerial photography, elevation data, land cover products, Lidar point cloud data, Digital Line Graphs (DLGs), Digital Orthophoto Quads (DOQs), and much more. How to use Landsat Spectral Bands can be helpful.
  • GloVis*- Just looking for satellite imagery? Don't really need a robust and complex search engine? GloVis is a browse-based viewer that's easier to search and more user-friendly than EarthExplorer. Products include LandsatASTEREO-1MODIS, and TerraLook imagery, NAPP and NHAPimagery. How to use Landsat Spectral Bands can be helpful.

Additional FREE Geospatial Data from the USGS & Our Partners

  • LandsatLook*-Full-resolution JPEGs of Landsat satellite images that are best used for image selection and simple visual interpretation. Available as thermal or natural color images with optional geographic reference. Not recommended for digital analysis.
  • Emergency Response Portal*-Geospatial imagery for national and international disasters.
  • Science Data Catalog*-Metadata and links to all USGS data. Search capabilities are somewhat limited due to the size of certain datasets.
  • National Geologic Map Database-Search over 90,000 maps and reports, including free digital maps and GIS map data. Primary themes are geology, geophysics, marine, energy resources, and natural hazards.
  • Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS)*-A dynamic online map interface that can be used to view and download USGS datasets for national or international disasters including floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes.
  • Water Spatial Data-Maps and GIS data for water related topics such as water use maps and data, watershed boundaries, NHD, streamflow records, and more.
  • Quaternary Fault and Fold Database of the United States- Geologic, geomorphic, and geographic information for over 2,000 Quaternary (active in the last 1,600,000 years) faults in the U.S. Download shape files and Google Earth files.
  • Mineral Resources On-Line Spatial Data*- A source for regional and global geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and mineral resource maps and data. Includes map services.
  • Global Mineral Resource Assessments*- Most of these reports contain GIS data. The USGS is in the process of compiling all the data in a single location, but for now users must review each link.
  • Energy Data Finder*- Geospatial data related to oil & gas, coal, geochemistry, and geophysics. This is also a good place to look for base data in international locations (used in global energy assessments).
  • Maps of America’s Submerged Lands- A portal to published USGS maps, reports, and digital data that depict the bathymetry, surficial geology, and/or subsurface structure of selected submerged U.S. areas. This is mostly coastal locations, but some lakes are included.
  • Coastal & Marine Interactive Map Server- GIS data and metadata for past and current projects.
  • Astrogeology MCTR GIS Lab- Graphical, statistical, and spatial GIS tools for analyses of planetary data. All downloads are free. Links to Interactive GIS maps of Mars, the Moon, and Venus.

[*Includes international data or information]

Other Sites of Interest

  • United States Interagency Elevation Inventory- Where to find high-accuracy topographic and bathymetric data for the U.S., including LIDAR, IfSAR, hydrographic surveys, multibeam data, and bathymetric LIDAR.
  • Department of the Interior Geospatial Emergency Management System (IGEMS)*- Monitor and analyze natural hazards events as they are occurring. Dynamic links connect to additional information. Emphasis is on U.S. events, but some international events are included.
  • Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)- The official repository of geographic names data for the U.S. Contains information about physical and cultural geographic features of all types in the United States and defines the feature location by state, county, USGS topographic map, and geographic coordinates.
  • Planetary Nomenclature- Download shapefiles or KML files of all named features on planets and moons.
  • USGS Publications Warehouse*- Search bibliographic citations for USGS publications. Links to online sources for many publications, including maps.
  • The National Map Corps- Citizen mapping! Volunteer map data collection projects including input on structure locations.
  • USGS Education Map Catalog- Go to the USGS Store site and click on "Education Products" to find paper maps that are popular with educators and the general public. Most paper maps must be purchased (teacher discounts are available), but many have links to PDF versions that can be freely downloaded.

[*Includes international data or information]

Where to Get Digital (FREE) and Printed (cost) Topographic Maps

  • What is a digital US Topo Map?
    • Produced 2009 to present
    • Computer-generated on a 3-year cycle
    • Individual layers can be turned on and off
    • Includes an orthoimage layer
  • What is a digital Historical Topographic Map?
    • Produced 1947 to 1992
    • Other scales produced beginning 1884
    • Hand-generated
    • These are high-resolution scans of paper maps
  • Map Locator on the USGS Store
    • US Topos in GeoPDF format - all dates
    • Historical topographic maps in GeoPDF format - all scales and dates
    • Order paper copies of both maps from this site. Teacher discounts are available.
  • The National Map
    • US Topos in GeoPDF format - all dates
    • US Topo Map Data and Topo Stylesheet as Shapefile or Geodatabase
    • Historical topographic maps in GeoPDF format - all scales and dates
    • Use this site for bulk downloads of topographic maps
  • TopoView
    • Historical topographic maps only
      • GeoPDF
      • GeoTIFF
      • KMZ
      • JPEG
  • HDDS Explorer
    • US Topos in GeoTIFF format. This format was generated by the U.S. Forest Service
    • Use the "Seach Criteria" tab to locate the area of interest
    • In the "Events" tab, click on "Baseline" then "U.S. Forest Maps"
    • In the "Additional Criteria" tab, click on "USGS_USFS MAP Emergency_Response_Product"
    • In "Search Criteria", select "Predefined Area" to download by state, county, etc.

FREE Bulk Downloads of Maps and Geospatial Data

  1. Batch Download. For roughly 1,500 or fewer maps (state-size areas): The National Map Download Client allows maps to be selected over any rectangular area, or predefined areas such as counties or states. The resulting product list can be saved to a CSV file, and this file used as input to a Download Manager program to retrieve all the maps.
  2. Portable Disk Drive. For more than 1,500 maps (up to the entire map collection): If you ship us a portable disk drive with prepaid return shipping, we will load the drive with maps and return it to you. For more details, send your requirements (including product type and area of interest) to

    Hard drive shipping is intended for one-time or infrequent deliveries. Users who wish to keep a private collection continuously current should use options 3 and 4 to monitor US Topo production and retrieve new maps. We do not have a subscription service for notification of new maps, nor do we coordinate disk-drive deliveries with production milestones; requests for bulk delivery are queued as we receive them and answered as quickly as other work permits.

  3. CSV Database Dump. For advanced users. The data needed to create download scripts is here. Use this application to search for subsets of US Topo and HTMC maps. A complete CSV dump of the database is refreshed nightly and posted to the same page. The information in this complete file can be used to keep private collections of maps up to date. This option is for advanced users; we do not provide tutorial assistance.
  4. Catalog API. For skilled web programmers: Monitor USGS product databases through the API of the ScienceBase catalog. This is similar to option 3, but is more elegant and powerful. Go here for documentation. This option is for skilled web programmers.

[*Includes international data or information]