2

In this case I'm working with county lines from TIGER, but in general, I'm trying to sort out how to know what CRS my data is in.

I thought this would be in the shapefile's .prj but all I see there is:

EOGCS["GCS_North_American_1983",
DATUM["D_North_American_1983",
SPHEROID["GRS_1980",6378137,298.257222101]],
PRIMEM["Greenwich",0],
UNIT["Degree",0.017453292519943295]]

Is there a reliable way to discern the CRS of any one shapefile?

4

That is NAD83 as your Datum; so you shouldn't have any additional projection to worry about.

Sorry, I should have pointed that out. Your GEOGCS tells you that you are using the GCS (Lat/Long) based Coordinate Systems; then your DATUM being D_North_American_1983 points you to the NAD83.

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