LiDAR Elevation Data for Minnesota
LiDAR ("Light Detection and Ranging")
is an active remote sensing technology that uses laser light to detect and measure
surface features on the earth. LiDAR-derived high-resolution elevation
data products are available for all of Minnesota.
- Hydrographic Position
Index Technical Report: Combining LiDAR-derived DEM
analysis, raster classification and color symbology for pseudo-3D terrain
visualization to enhance hydrography interpretation on the DEM landscape,
Solar Suitability Analysis project, which used Minnesota's statewide
LiDAR data, wins Esri Climate Resilience App Challenge award
MnTOPO: A web application for viewing, printing and
downloading high-resolution elevation data for Minnesota collected using LiDAR
- View terrain data and contour lines, choose from several basemaps, view
flight lines and metadata
- Create, save and print a map
- Find the elevation of a point and draw elevation profiles
- Download LiDAR data by drawing a polygon around your area of interest
- Select only the layers you need
- Choose from several formats
- Tiles in most formats will be mosaicked for the download
- Tip sheet:
If you get a loading error with MnTOPO, it's likely caused by a
"Compatibility View" setting in Internet Explorer browser v11 which is
- Folder names and
organization have been changing, so some of the paths given in the readme files
need updating. The readmes will be updated once the names and organization
stabilize - please let us know (
if you are having trouble finding anything.
- Contents and
filesizes of LiDAR
- This table summarizes the derived products found in each
county geodatabase since not all counties are identical (e.g., not all
counties have a building footprint layer)
- Filesizes for the county geodatabases are included since the
filesizes no longer display on the FTP site.
- If you haven't used this site or LiDAR data before, see the help files.
- Download problems:
- Many of the data files are huge and
should be downloaded with an FTP client rather than a browser.
- No username or password is needed to download from
MnGeo's FTP site. For unknown reasons, sometimes the Internet
Explorer (IE) browser may prompt you for a user name and password. If this
happens, try using another browser such as Firefox or Chrome, or possibly a
different version of IE.
- Unzipping problems: Many older unzip programs (including
the one built into Windows XP) cannot handle the extended zip format which
is used to compress these very large files. They vastly overestimate the
filespace needed to unzip the files. We've also had one reported file corruption
problem using the Windows 7 unzip. We recommend using
7-zip on Windows and the
standard zip/unzip programs on other operating systems.
- Flight lines and dates of acquisition (where available):
Introductory documentation for the FTP site and the data; the
main ones are listed below:
- readme_first.rtf: Description of how the
files on the FTP site are organized and what is in each folder.
- raw_LiDAR_Data_README.rtf: Description of the
tiled LiDAR point cloud information (LAS format) and the tiled
file geodatabases storing derived information.
Description of the files in the county mosaics and tips for
- watchme_first.swf: Video (Flash format) describing the FTP site
and tips to get started.
LAS_File_Processing_Using_LASTOOLS: How to work with
LAS/LAZ data format and how to export to a neutral format that can
be imported into other software such as AutoCAD.
Minnesota LiDAR Facebook page (publicly viewable)
ArcGIS 10.1 Toolbox (MnDNR)
Streamlines downloading and merging LiDAR data associated with a polygon of
interest from within ArcGIS software
Requires ArcGIS 10.1 Service Pack
1 or above.
Hillshade layer (LiDAR-derived, black-and-white image) on MnGeo's
WMS image service.
- Fall 2012, Duluth Area, taken after the spring 2012 flood.
- Maps showing area
- This data replaces the corresponding tiles in the Spring 2011
Arrowhead collect EXCEPT in the "arrowhead" project folder, the "previous"
folders in the q250k folders, and in the county mosaics. Data is
available for download from the
"duluth_fall_2012" projects folder, the
folders, and the
(the tiles but not the county mosaics).
- Spring 2011,
Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties, part of Itasca County, and
Voyageurs National Park in Koochiching County.
Map showing block boundaries
- Data is available on the FTP site in different places, depending on
whether or not it has been replaced by the 2012 Duluth Area collect:
- Central Lakes: Collected Spring 2012. The data covers
Aitkin, Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Todd and Wadena counties and a portion of
- Twin Cities Metro: Collected Spring and Fall 2011. The data
cover Anoka, Benton, Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison,
Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne
and Washington counties.
- Data is available on the FTP site both by county (in the
county folder) and by block (in the
projects folder). See
showing block boundaries.
- Tile naming for the Dakota Block, Metro Block and Maple Grove Block: Since the
point density of these collects is higher than the other blocks (2
points/square meter for the Dakota Block, and 8 points/square meter for
the Metro and Maple Grove blocks), the vendor tiled the las files further, breaking each standard
tile into 16 additional tiles. They are simply appended an A, B, C, or D
starting in the upper left and proceeding in a clockwise direction. A
sample image, taken from the
tile index map that is on the site, shows a single tile with the
sub-block lettering scheme. A sample tile name would be:
4243-02-30_a_a.laz. Also, there is a tiling scheme feature class in the
elevation_data file geodatabase.
- Red River Basin (Spring 2008-Spring 2010)
- UTM Zone 15 version
- 19 1/2 Minnesota counties available: Becker, Beltrami, Big Stone, Clay,
Clearwater, Grant, Kittson, Koochiching (northern part - see
map for area covered), Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman,
Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin
- Data is in the
folder of the FTP site.
- UTM Zone 14 version
Products: Overview of derived products and those in development,
- Southeast (Fall 2008)
- 8,800 square
miles in nine counties: Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston,
Mower, Olmsted, Steele, Wabasha and Winona County.
- Southwest (Spring and Fall 2010)
- 17,260 square miles in 25 counties: Brown, Chippewa,
Cottonwood, Douglas, Faribault, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone,
Pope, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Sibley, Swift, Waseca, Watonwan, Yellow
- Other Counties
- Blue Earth 2012 (2005
- Independent county projects:
These counties are available for general distribution via agreements between
these counties and the State of Minnesota and/or the U.S. Geological Survey. Pine County is available by agreement with the Natural Resources
- Smaller Projects
- Lake Superior Bathymetry: Hydrographic and topographic
data collected along the Lake Superior coast of Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Michigan for NOAA. Data extends offshore from the shoreline to
extinction depth or 1 km, whichever is closer, and onshore from the
shoreline to 30 meters.
- Lake Shady: A reservoir on the Zumbro River in Olmsted
- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park: in Mille Lacs County; see
park description; data from an independent project centered on the
- Minnehaha Creek: in Hennepin County, data from a U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers project.
- Minnesota River Basin, South Dakota portion:
is in UTM Zone 14 coordinates
- Red River Basin Block I: Covers Lake of the Woods and
Roseau counties, eastern Marshall County and northern portions of
Beltrami and Pennington counties; see a
graphic showing location of Block I.
- Seven Mile Creek: in Nicollet County
- Results of May 2012 survey on user
needs for LiDAR data
log of problems fixed:
- Twin Cities Metro Block A_C: 32 tiles (10/19/12)
- Arrowhead Block 4: tile 2742-02-53 (12/11/12)
- Morrison and Cook county tiles (3/7/13)
- Carver County building footprints (3/11/13)
Education and Training
Hydrology and Terrain
Analysis Tools for Using LiDAR Data (NRCS)
Free python-based ArcGIS tools
Conservation Applications of LiDAR (University of Minnesota)
Six training modules on conservation applications of LiDAR. Each
module was taught as a half- or full-day workshop at locations
- LiDAR Forum:
discussion forum providing technical support for Minnesota LiDAR users
Glossary of LiDAR-related Terms
- 2013 Mn GIS/LIS Conference LiDAR Presentations
LiDAR and DEM Tips and Tricks
Tim Loesch, MnDNR, 2011
Tips to help effectively display LiDAR and DEM data.
Accessing and Using Minnesota LiDAR Data Packets
Tim Loesch and Shelly Sentyrz, MnDNR, 10/5/11
Powerpoint slides, exercise materials and data from a GIS/LIS
Digital Terrain Analysis with LiDAR for Clean Water Implementation,
May 11, 2010, Joel Nelson, University of Minnesota, and Barbara
Weisman, Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Workshop slides.
Working with LiDAR Data in ArcGIS 10.1
Smart Strategies for Managing LiDAR Data, complimentary online seminars from Esri.
on "LiDAR" in Esri's
Training Catalog to find more offerings.
LiDAR Research and Education Subcommittee of the Minnesota
Digital Elevation Committee is working to design and promote best
practices with LiDAR data, LiDAR-derived products and LiDAR training
statewide. This design and oversight will ensure there is
consistency in data development and application for all users.
- Minnesota Elevation Mapping Project
A State of Minnesota
Legacy Amendment project to complete LiDAR coverage of the state.
- Center for LIDAR Information
Coordination and Knowledge (CLICK)
The goal of CLICK is to facilitate data access, user coordination and
education about LIDAR remote sensing for scientific needs. This USGS site contains
a bulletin board, data viewer, links to other websites/references/media and
- Red River
Basin Mapping Initiative
The goal of the Red River Basin Mapping Initiative is to develop a high
resolution DEM for the Red River of the North Basin south of the U.S./Canada border using LiDAR. This webpage includes links to the project specs, status, LiDAR viewers, acquired areas,
quality control reports and other information.
Uses of LiDAR in Minnesota
Examples illustrating how LiDAR data is already being used in Minnesota: