I cannot successfully read a shapefile in R.

I'm using Rstudio version 0.99.902

I have read several articles on readOGR errors that concern reading a shapefile.

My shapefile is error free, as it opens in qGIS. when I check prescence of file, file.exists returns TRUE yet I get a "Cannot open layer" error:

Error in ogrInfo(dsn = dsn, layer = layer, encoding = encoding, use_iconv = >>use_iconv, : Cannot open layer

Any advice?

  • Does your file path for dsn have a "/" at then end? Remove it
    – mdsumner
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 14:28
  • the dsn does not have a "/" still doesn't work! very frustrating
    – Ben
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 14:58
  • Have you tried with other packages to read a shapefile ?
    – gene
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 15:14
  • 1
    Please click 'edit' and add your code!
    – Simbamangu
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 16:10
  • 1
    Can you provide more documentation, in the form of your actual readOGR() call? And maybe the paths of your files.
    – the_skua
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 19:01

2 Answers 2


It took me a bit to get this too.

# shapefile path example:
# C:/Users/User/GIS/MyShapefile.shp

# OGR command:
readOGR("C:/Users/User/GIS", "MyShapefile")

You have to leave off the ".shp" extension as well as the last forward slash on the path.

  • I wonder if the errors output of readOGR could be modified to flag this issue specifically??
    – haff
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 19:57
  • Or modified to fix the input. I wonder in what proportion users use the various file formats available to ogr. The input schema makes sense but is confusing coming from desktop GIS software.
    – JMT2080AD
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 0:23
  • Looks like the new version of rgdal does what you want. I can call a shapefile by it's full .shp path and it loads fine. I did it by accident and it works!
    – JMT2080AD
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 0:25
  • @JMT_2080AD Can you share your code? Still struggling with readOGR Thanks! :)
    – Ben
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:55
  • @Ben send me what you have here and I'll show you what you are doing wrong. As a note, if you update your R instance with the new rgdal library you should be able to load the "xxx.shp" with extension directly.
    – JMT2080AD
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 18:17

I also received this error message when reading in a shapefile in QGIS (3.4.3 using the R "Autocor spatiale" tool. Tried running it in R (3.5.2) and had the same issue.

It took me a while to figure this silly one out, but I had my shapefile on a USB (moving between a Mac and PC to make sure a module works for students using both types of OS). Once I migrated the shapefile to my hard disk, it worked.

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