How often is the Geographic Names Information System database updated?

Federal, state, local, and non-governmental data partners continuously submit new features and edit existing features in the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database. Changes--potentially consisting of hundreds to thousands of records per month--are validated by the staff and made available on the GNIS website and in the Web services.

The downloadable files are revised every 6-12 months or as needed. The date of the last update is displayed on the download page. States that are currently under contract for extensive data compilation could have very large updates performed monthly or quarterly.

The GNIS Web-based data maintenance application allows authorized users to enter and edit feature data directly. Batch files of data are also accepted in most standard formats. Government agencies at all levels are encouraged to join the GNIS data maintenance program. Other organizations and individuals will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Suggested corrections and additions to the data are accepted from any source for review; upon validation, they will be committed to the database. Send questions about GNIS Web services and the data maintenance program to gnis_manager@usgs.gov.

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How can I propose a name change for a natural feature?

Proposals to change the name of a natural feature can be submitted to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names . There must, however, be a compelling reason to change it. The Board is responsible by law for standardizing geographic names throughout the Federal Government and discourages name changes unless necessary. Further, changing a name merely to...

How can I name an unnamed natural feature?

Proposals to name an unnamed natural feature can be submitted to the Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The BGN is responsible by law for standardizing geographic names throughout the Federal Government, and promulgates policies governing issues such as commemorative naming, derogatory names, and names in wilderness areas. Please note that no...

What are the official definitions of regions in the United States. For example, what is "the Midwest," "the South," or the “East Coast”?

No level of government has official designations for regions. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names , which is responsible by law for standardizing geographic name usage throughout the Federal government, is often asked for official names and boundaries of regions, but does not and cannot provide them. Regions are application-driven and highly...

What is the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)?

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) was developed by the U.S.Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN), which maintains cooperative working relationships with state names authorities to standardize geographic names. GNIS contains information about the official names for places, features, and...
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Date published: July 4, 2017

Mapping Yorktown

If urban legend is correct, the world turned upside down on October 19, 1781. The Patriots defeated the British at the Siege of Yorktown, paving the way for American Independence and starting an enduring trend for town names.

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Highest Point East of Rockies Gets New Name

Black Elk Peak replaces Harney Peak in federal records

Date published: September 1, 2015

Old Name Officially Returns to Nation's Highest Peak

The story of America is told by the names on the land. When you hear names like Kentucky and Kennesaw, Klamath and Kodiak, your mind immediately starts to turn over all manner of associated thoughts of what you may have experienced or learned or even what you may imagine about that place.

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Denver Federal Center sign
April 13, 2016

Denver Federal Center Sign

U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado

 

Shaded relief and geographic names features from 2005 US Topo for Denali, Alaska
December 31, 2015

Shaded relief and geographic names features from 2005 US Topo for Dena

Shaded relief and geographic names features from 2005 US Topo for Denali, Alaska

video thumbnail: US Topo
February 29, 2012

US Topo

US Topo is the next generation of topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Arranged in the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle format, digital US Topo maps are designed to look and feel (and perform) like the traditional paper topographic maps for which the USGS is so well known. In contrast to paper-based maps, US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages

Image: Rocky Mountain National Park
September 19, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

Scenic shots of Rocky Mountain National Park, South park entrance sign.

Example geographic names data

Example geographic names data

Example geographic names data. In support of the United States Board on Geographic Names, the USGS maintains the Federal authoritative source of official geographic feature names, known as the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). USGS topographic maps and The National Map Viewer display selected feature names, including physical and cultural features such

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