I've been using the USGS National Map viewer (http://viewer.nationalmap.gov/viewer/) for getting data for QGIS, but the download system is driving me insane. I enter my email address and [sometimes] get a notice that my data will be available in up to 2 days (why so long???) If that email does arrive, occasionally the URLs are linked to a 0 byte file and I'm out of luck.

Is there any other place to get the data? This "click and hope your data arrives in 2 days" system keeps getting me in trouble and behind on my work. I don't understand why I can download multiple GBs of elevation data from USGS on demand but hydro data that's a fraction of the size requires a waiting period.

Edit: I'm specifically looking for hydro, transport and land cover for Kittitas Valley in Washington state. Thanks for the great answers.

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    Are there specific datasets you're looking for? How about specific locations? – user3461 Oct 25 '12 at 14:38
  • Without knowing exactly what you're looking for, check out the community wiki on Federal / free data sources. – Roy Oct 25 '12 at 14:50
  • The notice about the 2 days is only for dynamically clipped items. – Dandy Oct 25 '12 at 15:04
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    When downloading items the Type column will show one item that is Dynamic and one that is Staged. The staged item will be available for immediate download. You can also contact that team for information and help: viewer.nationalmap.gov/contactus/index.php – Dandy Oct 25 '12 at 15:28
  • Dandy- Thanks for that crucial piece of advice, now I see what causes the delay and how to avoid it. I've been using 24K and 100K indices to select but this clips hydro data as you mentioned, selecting by NHD subregions seemed to avoid this. I'm still uncertain how to get data like transportation properly to avoid requesting a dynamic set – Veazer Oct 25 '12 at 21:21

GIS Data Depot has statewide vector data, including hydro data. I routinely look to the state DNR for GIS data too, for example the Minnesota DNR GIS Data Deli has a wealth of data.

USGS Earth Explorer is one of the best sites for remote sensing data.

Hydro1k Database from EROS has a good selection of hydro related data including:

  • Elevation
  • Compound Topo Index
  • Slope
  • Flow Direction
  • Streams
  • Drainage Basins
  • Flow Accumulation
  • Aspect

The attached image is the Earth Explorer interface.

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Most of the data that's available on the National Map is available elsewhere too but where to get it depends on what dataset you're after. You specifically mentioned hydro data, the National Hydrography Dataset is available here in file geodatabase format by state. The high-resolution NHD is what's used on the National Map site.


If your area of interest is limited to a specific State, you MAY find that a local government source has the same data available for free download. Start with State agency or State GIS organization websites. The Ramona GIS Inventory may also be helpful, assuming that State and/or local govt's in your area of interest had added their information to the site.

Note that finding such sources may be easy or impossible, depending upon the specific State(s).


The interface is just a bit better on weogeo.
Most of the data is there.
Without a paid subscription most of the sites are going to make you jump through a few hoops.
GIS Data Depot (data.geocomm) and weogeo seem to have the fewest slowdowns for me.

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