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.

ESRI Data and Maps (U of M access only)
A wide variety of data and maps are available for use with ArcGIS products; enter your x.500 username and password when prompted; use the "DataMaps10" folder for ArcGIS 10 data from ESRI; data is also available on all work stations in the ACIC.

Vector Map Level 0
A wide variety of data and maps can be accessed here that are compatible with ArcGIS products as well as other products; .zip files are provided for download for each region; click for a description of the data and regions; data is also available on all work stations in the ACIC.

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)



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administratoin (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.

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.

Garners regional geographic information systems initiative serving the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minnesota) metropolitan area; provides a regional forum to promote and facilitate widespread sharing of geospatial data.

  • MetroGIS DataFinder
    Supplies GIS data and metadata for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources DNR Data Deli
Provides easy access to a wide variety of spatial data to the Minnesota GIS community at no cost, within the constraints of the Minnesota DNR GIS Data License Agreement.

Minnesota Department of Transportation

  • BaseMap
    The BaseMap is a planning level set of data developed at a scale of 1:24000. The data set includes information about transportation features (roads, railroads and navigable waters), as well as boundary information (State, County, and Municipal Boundaries, Mn/DOT District Boundaries, Civil, and Congressional Townships, State Forests and Parks, Military Reservations, Indian Reservation Lands, National Forests and Parks), and stream and lake locations.
  • Geospatial Data
    Includes maps and data related to right of way, parcels and railroads.

Minnesota Land Management Information Center (LMIC)
Serves Minnesota by helping other government and non-government organizations achieve better, faster, and more cost-effective results for the state through the creative use of GIS and other geospatial information technologies.

  • Minnesota County Geologic Atlases
    County geologic atlases provide information essential to sustainable management of ground water resources, for applications such as monitoring, water allocation, permitting, remediation, and well construction. They define aquifer properties and boundaries, as well as the connection of aquifers to the land surface and to surface water resources. They also provide a broad range of information on county geology, mineral resources (including construction materials), and natural history. Many counties have the atlases available as GIS shapefiles.

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.

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: Nov 18, 2022 3:44 PM