Resources for: Geospatial Data

Getting Started

Spatial Data Resources

Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal provides discoverability and facilitates access to geospatial resources. The resources in the portal are selected and curated by librarians and geospatial specialists at ten research institutions in the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

The resources include GIS datasets, web services, and digitized historical maps.

screen shot of BTAA Geoportal home page

Other data resources

While this list is not exhaustive, its goal is to identify and provide access to as wide a variety of online GIS data and resources as possible. Please contact the Borchert Map Library with suggestions for additions to this collection.

For information on locating GIS data, please see our How Do I Find GIS Data? page.

Digital Resources | National Data Resources | Regional Data Resources | Minnesota | Surrounding States

Digital Resources

Licensed Online Tools & Data Sources

Map and geography-related resources that the University Libraries license for use by faculty, staff and students.

Resources Available in the Automated Cartographic Information Center (ACIC)
The Automated Cartographic Information Center, located in the Borchert Map Library, offers a variety of GIS resources on CD-ROM and other media. These resources include: local, national, and worldwide ESRI-format shapefiles and base maps, tabular data, and special-purpose GIS datasets for local-interest topics.

U-Spatial Data (UMN access only)
U-Spatial provides access to a number of spatial data resources for research and learning. These include recent National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery; imagery from Hennepin and Ramsey Counties; and Minnesota elevation data including LiDAR and digital elevation models (DEMs).

OpenStreetMap data
Data are downloaded daily from the OpenStreetMap planet file; see the readme.html file on the site for more information.

ProQuest Statistical Datasets
This site provides access to statistical information produced by U.S. Federal agencies, States, private organizations, and major intergovernmental organizations.

National Data Resources


General | Agriculture/Forestry | Biology | Census | Environment | Geology Land Use/Land Cover | Meteorology | Recreation | Transportation | Water/Hydrology


Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)

The FGDC is an inter-agency committee that promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis via the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).

  • National Spatial Data Infrastructure The NSDI coordinates the sharing of geographic data, maps, and online services through an online portal, that searches metadata held within the NSDI Clearinghouse Network.
    A one-stop informational center, which highlights federal, state and local geographic data.



U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)



U.S. Census Bureau


Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • FEMA Mapping and Analysis Center
    Furnishes national level Geographic Information System (GIS) support and coordination to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); includes maps of areas affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Envirofacts Data Warehouse
    Provides access to several EPA databases that supplies information about environmental activities that may affect air, water, and land anywhere in the United States.
  • Enviromapper
    Allows users to map various types of environmental information, including air releases, drinking water, toxic releases, hazardous wastes, water discharge permits, and Superfund sites.



U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)


Land Use / Land Cover

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey.

North American Land Cover, 2020 (Landsat, 30m)

  • This map of North American land cover provides a harmonized view of the physical cover of Earth’s surface across the continent at a spatial resolution of 30 meters, based on Landsat satellite imagery for Canada, Mexico, and the United States.



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)



U.S. National Park Service (NPS)



U.S. Department of Transportation


Water / Hydrology

National Wetlands Inventory (NWI)
NWI produces and provides information on the characteristics, extent, and status of the Nation's wetlands and deepwater habitats and other wildlife habitats; contains a variety of maps and data including the interactive Wetlands Mapper.


Regional Data Resources

Regional GIS data is also available in the NATIONAL section.

Maps and GIS of the Great Lakes Region
Provides a place where people can find and submit digital data for areas within the Great Lakes region; site has four major parts: GIS Datasets, Online Mapping, Map Gallery, and Resources.

University of Minnesota's Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory (RSGL)
Promotes remote sensing and GIS research applications in the form of informing, education, and outreach provided by the RSGL. Projects include water-based and land-based topics. A forestry project of the lab is eForest, which is a collaborative effort between researchers and forest resource managers integrating satellite technologies into forest inventory and management.



Resources in this section are produced by Minnesota state and local agencies. GIS data for Minnesota is also available in the NATIONAL section. The Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal is the most up to date source for Minnesota data resources.

Minnesota Geospatial Commons
Data resources and applications from state agencies as well as some counties. More resources are being added regularly. Nearly all of the sources below are included in the Geospatial Commons.

Hennepin County GIS Data
Hennepin County has freely available data: Taxable parcels, address points, county boundary, street centerlines, street aliases, aerial imagery, municipal boundaries, commissioner district boundaries, and topographic contours.

Metropolitan Council
The regional planning agency serves the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area and provides essential services to the region.

  • GIS at the Metropolitan Council
    Supports the Council's planning, transit and environmental services activities through the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology; the department works very closely with MetroGIS to facilitate the sharing of GIS data among government agencies within the Twin Cites Metropolitan Area. Data is available through the Minnesota Geospatial Commons.

Legislative Coordinating Commission Geographic Information Services
Accommodates a repository of statewide boundary information for legislative use; maintains a map library of spatial information, provided by the Census Bureau and a host of Minnesota State agencies, that can be integrated with many sources of information to produce maps and reports of pertinent information for legislators and legislative staff.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Data is available through the Minnesota Geospatial Commons.


Minnesota Department of Transportation

Online viewer that provides statewide coverage of MnDOT Basemap information, including all public roads in Minnesota; allows users to view, save, and print maps

Collaborative GIS information site; features static maps and a customizable, interactive map of Minnesota

MnGeo - Geospatial Information for Minnesota
Provides coordination, guidance, and leadership for the state’s use of geographic information systems (GIS).

MnGeo’s Geospatial Image Service provides versatile access to Minnesota air photos, hillshades, and scanned topographic maps using a Web Map Service (WMS). Using this service means you don't need to download and store these very large files on your own computer. Many users report that this service provides faster display than using the same files on their own computer.

  • Minnesota County Geologic Atlases

    County Geologic Atlases (or CGAs) provide information essential to sustainable management of groundwater resources, for applications such as monitoring, water allocation, permitting, remediation, and well construction.

    CGAs also define aquifer properties and boundaries, as well as the connection of aquifers to the land surface and to surface water resources. They provide a broad range of information on county geology, mineral resources (including construction materials), and natural history.

Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium
Serves as a forum for communicating information to, and improving cooperation among, those interested in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Land Information Systems (LIS) in the State of Minnesota.


Surrounding States

Resources in this section are produced by Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin state and local agencies. GIS data for for these states is also available in the NATIONAL section.

Iowa Geographic Information Council
Fosters an efficient GIS environment through cooperation and coordination with public and private entities that access, collect, provide, and share data, metadata, applications and educational opportunities.

Iowa Geospatial Data Clearinghouse
Uses query for metadata describing data available for download on the Iowa State University campus and links to popular data sources from state, federal and private organizations. The ISU GIS Support and Research Facility maintains an FTP server that mirrors many of the popular geospatial datasets published by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies.

North Dakota Geographic Information Systems
A portal to retrieve North Dakota geospatial data and information.

South Dakota GIS
This site is dedicated to South Dakota geospatial data and information.

Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office

Recommend starting your search with GeoData@Wisconsin, the state’s most comprehensive catalog of geospatial data produced by local, state, and regional governments.  Cooperatively maintained by the State Cartographer’s Office and Robinson Map Library, GeoData@WI is an online geoportal that provides discovery and access to Wisconsin geospatial data, imagery, and scanned maps. All data referenced in GeoData@WI are available to download for free.

State of Wisconsin Geographic Information Office (GIO)
The GIO is designed to provide geospatial resources and geoservices. It also provides links to other Wisconsin-based GIS organizations.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources GIS
Offers access to Wisconsin DNR data.

Finding GIS data

Where can I find geospatial data? How do I know if that data is any good? How can I teach about societal issues around data?


Framing Your Data Search

What geographic level are you trying to represent/analyze? What types of features do you need to represent?

For example,

  • Do you need to represent states, counties, cities (points or polygons), etc?
  • Do you need to see streets, water, elevation information?
  • Do you need parcel or ownership information?


Who would create this kind of data?

  • federal government (specific agency or branch?)
  • state government (specific branch or group?)
  • county government
  • city government
  • commercial entities
  • ??????


Would this type of data be publicly available or restricted in some way?

  • Could the information be restricted to protect someone from harm?
  • Might the information be restricted because of privacy issues?
  • Other restrictions?


What data formats are you willing/able to work with?


What kind of online tools might help you locate the data you need?

  • Data search tools.
  • Mapping tools that provide access to the data too.
  • Imagery search and or display tools.
Last Updated: Mar 24, 2023 3:04 PM