GSDA:Using the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)

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Since all 1:24,000 scale DEMs and DRGs are named based upon the 7.5-minute quadrangle they are located in, it is important to know the proper quadrangle map names.

The USGS GNIS Query is another tool to find out which state, county, and USGS quadrangle a particular feature is located in. Feature types included in the GNIS Query are: reservoirs, streams, lakes, valleys, basins, dams, populated places (representing cities and town,) etc. Information for these features, such as the geographical coordinates (latitude / longitude,) elevation, and the USGS quad name(s) covering the feature are also listed for you.

An alternative, and possibly a better option to using the USGS GNIS page, is to use Google Maps or the Microsoft Bing Virtual Earth Map Locator tool (included with WMS) to search for a location of interest. Elevation data, imagery, and possibly other data for most locations in the world can be downloaded after finding the location using the Virtual Earth Map Locator.


  1. Connect to the internet and go to geonames.usgs.gov.. You are now on the Geography Information site for USGS.
  2. Click on an option to search domestic (US) names or foreign names. This will take you to the GNIS homepage.

On the feature summary page (the final page) there are often links to viewable maps of the site.

  • Topozone – Opens a topographical map of the feature.
  • TerraServer – Views the following images on the MSN TerraServer.
  • DRG – Digital Raster Graphic (digitized topographic map.)
  • DOQ – Digital Orthophoto Quadrangle (black and white aerial photograph.)
  • USGS map – Generic map window using US Census Bureau's Tiger Map Server.
  • EPA – Goes to the corresponding watershed profile on the EPA "Surf Your Watershed" site.

USEFUL LINKS

[USGS GNIS Home]       ]


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