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 areas in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories and outlying areas of the United States, including Antarctica. GNIS is the geographic names component of The National Map

GNIS contains records on more than 2 million geographic names in the United States, including populated places, schools, lakes, streams, valleys, and ridges. It includes all feature types except for road and highway names.

GNIS provides a fast search through its Query Form for the United States and Its Territories.

A search for a feature on GNIS will provide topographic map names, longitude and latitude, and feature information. There are also links to topographic maps as well as aerial photography via the National Map and other sources.

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Can I add new entries to the Geographic Names Information System for manmade and administrative features, such as churches, cemeteries, schools, shopping centers, etc.?

Suggested corrections and additions to the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) data are accepted from any source for review. Upon validation, they will be committed to the database. For manmade and administrative features, submit the official name of the feature with its precise location in geographic coordinates (latitude/longitude), the...

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 is the difference between "mountain", "hill", and "peak"; "lake" and "pond"; or "river" and "creek?"

There are no official definitions for generic terms as applied to geographic features. Any existing definitions derive from the needs and applications of organizations using those geographic features. The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database utilizes 63 broad categories of feature types defined solely to facilitate retrieval of...

How can I acquire or download Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) data?

Download Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) data using the U.S. Board on Geographic Names website . Query the database for official geographic feature names, their location attributes, variant names, and other data. Display, print, and download up to 2,000 records from a query. GNIS data can also be downloaded via the National Map Viewer...

What is the most common city/town name in the United States?

There are no official definitions of city, town, village, hamlet, neighborhood, etc. All named entities with human habitation are classified as Populated Place, including incorporated places (20 percent of the Nation's communities), unincorporated places (the majority), housing developments not yet incorporated, and neighborhoods within...

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...
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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.

Date published: August 12, 2016

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

CO Morrison US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)
December 31, 2013

CO Morrison US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

CO Morrison US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

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

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DC Washington West 2011 US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)
December 31, 2011

DC Washington West 2011 US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

DC Washington West 2011 US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

Image: Rocky Mountain National Park
September 19, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Image: Wilderness Sign
July 24, 2009

Wilderness Sign

Wilderness sign beside a mountain hiking trail in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. This image was taken while the photographer was participating in the 2009 Joint Annual Meeting of these leading scientific societies: Mycological Society of America, American Bryological and Lichenological Society, American Fern Society, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and the

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Image: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
January 31, 2002

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

A Sign for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

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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