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Finding and Using GIS Data

The AGS Library's Guide to Finding GIS data and working with it for your specific project needs


How To Get GIS Data

1. There are multiple ways to search for and locate data in GeoData@Wisconsin.

  • a) Type in keywords inside the search bar at the top of the homepage. You can also click "Advanced" to make the search more specific.
  • b) Click one of the four icons representing broad categories of data on the left-hand side of the page.
  • c) View data held by any of the agencies listed in the two boxes on the lower left-hand side of the page.
  • d) Click the blue "Search Here" icon in the upper right-hand corner of the map. This allows you search for any dataset within the confines of the map. You can zoom in to search inside a more confined area.

2. With any of the above methods, you can further filter the search results using the tools on the left-hand side column.

3. When you've selected the file you want,

  • a) For most files, click the blue "Download File" icon on the right-hand side of the file's page.
  • b) Additionally, datasets with the "Mixed" icon can be opened in a web service or ArcGIS Online from its webpage by clicking "Web services" or "Open in ArcGIS Online" in the "Links" box.
  • c) For some files, such as aerial imagery or other large raster files, click the link next to "More details at:" in the file's page and follow the download instructions provided by the agency.

4. When the file download is complete, open the download and extract, or unzip all files to the directory of your choice.

5. Add the data to ArcMap, or a GIS interface of your choice. 

For "How-To" videos on searching for data, see:

Outside Data

Links to Outside Data

In many cases, the data consists of a link to the portal of the originator. Click the link if you want to view data there and find out more information about it. Going to the source may also enable you to download the data in a format not directly available from GeoData@Wisconsin.


The Contents of Finding and Using GIS Data may be reused with attribution for Non-Commercial purposes.

Finding and Using GIS Data by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License