I have been tasked with processing USGS's National Hydrography Dataset. However, it appears that the only available format is FileGDB (version 9.2-9.3.1). Looking at OGRs support for FileGDB, it looks like they only support those created by ArcGIS 10 and above. Does anybody have any ideas how I would be able to view and export this data to a more usable format?

If anybody is curious about the data, it can be directly downloaded through here.

4 Answers 4


Get the 9.3 FileGDB, and install the ArcGIS demo. Open ArcCatalog, point at the FileGDB, click "Upgrade", watch it spin for a few minutes, and be on your way. This was the most painless way I found to deal with it.

  • Small caveat, in trying to export the newly upgraded FileGDB to MsSqlSpatial, I had to remove the non-dataset entities from within ArcCatalog before it would export properly. Sep 9, 2013 at 19:19

From look at the website for the NHD data, it seems the data is available in 2 formats, the File Geodatabase and Personal Geodatabase. Where you are looking, which is to download the data on a state by state basis, it seems that the only option for download is the File GDB.
Note: Based on the website, the link to this data, included in the question above, only works with Internet Explorer.

If you look under the Download by SubRegions area, there are options for File or Personal GDB. Use the NHD Viewer to help determine what subregion(s) you need, then look under the High Resolution area and download the appropriate zip files containing the PGDB version 9.31 data.

I admit this is probably not an ideal situation since you may end up with multiple datasets. It will, however, allow you to access the data through the OGR tools, at which time you can merge them into a single database.

  • Thanks Get Spatial. I can see that ogr2ogr has Personal GDB support. It's unfortunate that USGS provides no easy way to download their data. I was able to find a geoportal datagateway.nrcs.usda.gov which allows you to download Hydrographic data per state as Shapefiles. However they make it extremely difficult to download. You first "order" the data and are then sent an email with the link to where you can download it, so there would be no way to automate this procedure.
    – user5584
    May 7, 2012 at 17:09

Use the NHD viewer, zoom to your desired extent, click download data, choose current extent and you will get drop downs that allow you to download shapefiles.

  • Thanks John, but I was trying to get data for the entire country. The NHD viewer does not allow you to do that.
    – user5584
    May 7, 2012 at 17:27

I ran into the issue of trying to browse to open the (foldername).gdb and ArcMap indicating there was no valid file there. I tried adding a folder connection in Arc Catalog to the (foldername).gdb folder and still it didn't work. FINALLY I decided to try to make a folder connection to the folder ABOVE the (foldername).gdb folder and everything showed up - ArcMap now recognizes the geodatabase. I did not find any documentation on this. Hope this helps someone...

  • The question is asking for an OGR (not ArcGIS Desktop) solution.
    – PolyGeo
    Sep 30, 2015 at 2:25

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