I am looking for a 2010 Census Tiger Shape file that hugs the coastline and doesn't include the ocean in county boundaries. I have a pre 2010 file that did this and I can't seem to find a 2010 version that follows the same pattern.
For Reference, I have been looking here: http://www2.census.gov/geo/tiger/

Below are visuals of the difference

Pre 2010 - Hugs land Pre 2010 - Hugs land

2010 Includes Ocean enter image description here

3 Answers 3


UPDATE The new files are now available and known as "Cartographic Boundary Files". More detail on the other types here http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/tiger.html The County file discussed above is available here: http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/cbf/cbf_counties.html

The official file is not currently available as of 5-12-2011, but should be sometime this summer.

My team might create our own version for use in the interim. If we do, I will post back a download link here.

We put in an official query to the geo.geography at census.gov team and got an (impressively) fast answer. Below is their response.

We do not currently have shapefiles that hug the coastline for 2010. We are in the process of creating our cartographic boundary files, which are more generalized and are clipped to the shoreline, but they are not ready yet. We hope to release these shapefiles this summer.

In the mean time, you could use the hydrography shapefiles to clip county boundaries to the shoreline. The shapefiles are available for download here: http://www.census.gov/geo/www/tiger/tgrshp2010/tgrshp2010.html. You could download the line hydrography file and use the lines that have an MTFCC code of P0002 for perennial shoreline. You would have to do this by county though, so it may be intensive work.

  • 2
    +1 Excellent answer. Having recently processed a number of these files, I found it fairly quick and straightforward to access the Census ftp site (they link to it from their TIGER pages) and grab the needed TIGER line files from the national directory listing (based on FIPS codes for the state and county). You can script the selection of the features by MTFCC and then merge the results. If you only need part of a state shoreline this is fairly quick work: each shapefile is typically around 100K features and 10-40MB in size.
    – whuber
    May 12, 2011 at 16:19
  • Thanks for the writeup. Do you have a favorite tool that would work for this process on a national scale? I typically look to QGIS for operations like this or in special cases write custom scripts that parse the raw files (like when I built our geocoder). At the moment we haven't budgeted for a custom script build so I might do some tinkering with QGIS to see if it can handle a national build.
    – Glenn
    May 12, 2011 at 16:29
  • I am likely missing something obvious here, but when I view the linear hydrography shapefiles at ftp2.census.gov/geo/tiger/TIGER2010/LINEARWATER I do not see any lines with MTFCC = "P0002", can someone advise?
    – Josh
    May 14, 2013 at 1:12

You can also just overlay the areawater layer from the 2010 TIGER files if all you need is a quick way to mask out the water areas. The areawater layer is pretty big and cumbersone, though.

  • Interesting idea, it won't work in our case because of the way we're stacking translucent layers. I've actually experimented with solutions like this and if you have a base map atlas with labels there end up being a lot of weird visual side effects relating to labels for cities etc that hang over water being cropped off by the water mask layer.
    – Glenn
    May 12, 2011 at 20:03

Hey Glenn where did you find the county file that hugs the land? Did the Census ever release a better file? I'm working with data from 2003, so I'm ok with pre-2010 county lines. County shapefiles still seem to bleed over onto water.


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