skip to content
Primary navigation

Lakes Data for Minnesota

Water Resources Home | Lakes | Rivers & Streams | Watersheds | Wetlands | Miscellaneous

Aerial photo of lakes with GIS polygon overlays

A wealth of GIS data delineates and describes Minnesota's lakes. Available data sets include the federally-sponsored National Hydrography Dataset and the Minnesota DNR Hydrography lake delineations, Public Waters Inventory delineations, and lake bathymetry. The MPCA maintains extensive lake water quality data collections. DNR's LakeFinder site links users to lakes information produced by many state agencies, including general characteristics, fisheries resources, lake levels, lake depth, water quality, water consumption advisories, and invasive species.


Hydrography/Bathymetry: GIS data and maps that include both lake boundary delineation and depth information

Quality: Data concerned primarily with lake water quality

General: Miscellaneous lake data



Name Source* Geographic Area Scale Time Period Data Type
National Hydrography Dataset


Nationwide 1:24,000 Current Vector GIS

The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) is a national framework database of digital surface water features that are combined into "reaches" and a reach-addressing system that provides a way to link water-related data to the surface drainage network. These links also enable the display and analysis of water data in upstream and downstream order.

DNR Hydrography: Lakes and Open Water


Statewide 1:24,000+ Current Vector GIS

Extracted from Mn DNR Hydrogaphy: contains lake and open water polygons, including 2-D river features. Originally from USGS DLG 100K lakes, but with extensive editing to provide best available delineations from a number of sources. Spatially integrated with rivers layers.  Attributed to meet DNR business needs. Other derived polygon layers include DNR Hydrography: Mine Pit Features and DNR Hydrography:Wetland Features.

Public Waters (PWI) Basin Delineations


Statewide 1:24,000+ Current Vector GIS
The Public Waters Inventory (PWI) was a legal process initiated in the 1970s which counties used to designate lakes, wetlands, and rivers as protected, or public, according to legislative guidelines. These data were developed as an aid to making regulatory decisions regarding Public Waters Basins. There is also a file for Public Waters Watercourses.

Public Waters Inventory (PWI) Scanned Maps and Lists


Statewide Various (county level) 1970s Georeferenced PDF
Scanned, georeferenced PDF-format files of the official Public Waters Inventory (PWI) Maps, as well as official lists of PWI rivers, lakes, and wetlands, are available for download.

Lake Bathymetry


Selected lakes Various Current Raster or Vector GIS

This file geodatabase contains the following layers: Lake Bathymetric Contours, Lake Bathymetric Digital Elevation Model (DEM), Lake Bathymetric Outline, and Lake Bathymetric Aquatic Vegetation. Bathymetry data exists for almost 1900 lakes.

Lake Superior Coastal Bathymetry
   - Overview
   - Download

NOAA Lake Superior coastline   2011 LiDAR (several formats; see processing info)

Hydrographic and topographic data collected along the Lake Superior coast of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Data extends offshore from the shoreline to extinction depth or 1 km, whichever is closer, and onshore from the shoreline to 30 meters. Download from DNR LiDAR ftp site is for Minnesota shoreline only.

Lake Superior Bathymetry

NRRI Lake Superior 1:547,160 1998 Raster GIS

1 km grid surface generated from depth point values.

Great Lakes DEM

USGS, NTDB Lake Superior Basin and 50 km buffer Not provided Not provided Raster GIS

1 km grid. Dataset buffer includes parts of Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

National Map Water Data


North America 1:2,000,000 Various Vector GIS, Table, GeoTIFF
This link opens the Water category of the National Map Small-Scale Data Catalog where various generalized water data such as "Streams and Waterbodies" may be downloaded.



Name Source* Geographic Area Scale Time Period Data Type
Lake Water Quality Assessment Program


Statewide N/A Ongoing Text
This webpage contains links to lake water quality information on the PCA website, including the Lake Water Quality Assessment program which assesses 3100 lakes in Minnesota and produces individual lake assessments and county-based reports that are updated annually. The reports provide lake water quality criteria and information which can be used by those involved in lake management, such as lakeshore owners and lake associations.
Environmental Data Access - Surface Water


Statewide Various Current Web Application, Text-based Search
Find water quality information from Minnesota's surface water monitoring sites using MPCA's Environmental Data Access site. Where available, also view conditions of lakes and rivers that have been assessed. Available through a map-based search or a text-based search.
WHAF for Lakes Application
(Watershed Health Assessment Framework)


Statewide Various Current Web Application, Spreadsheets
The interactive "WHAF for Lakes" application uses lake health scores to compare and contrast lakes found within a spatial boundary selected by the user. Lake details are available that summarize lake health metrics and basic lake morphology information.
Environmental Info Management Systems

Metropolitan Council

Twin Cities metro Various Current Spreadsheet and JSON
View and download water quality data on lakes, rivers, streams and rain gauges for the region.
How's My Waterway?


Nationwide Various Current Web Application
Learn the condition of local lakes, streams and other waters quickly and in plain language using a smart phone, tablet or desktop computer. See if local waterways were checked for pollution, what was found, and what is being done. Information source: State water quality monitoring reports.



Name Source* Geographic Area Scale Time Period Data Type
DNR Lakes Information

DNR Waters

Statewide N/A 6/2/2000 Text
The DNR homepage on lakes, providing links to lake recreation, resource and regulation information.

DNR, MDH, PCA and U of M - WRRC and Remote Sensing Laboratory

Statewide Various Various Web Application
LakeFinder accesses geographic and attribute information on more than 4,500 lakes and rivers searchable by lake and/or county. Information includes basic lake characteristics, fish population and consumption advice, lake depth, lake levels, water quality and clarity, and invasive species infestation.
Lake (depth) Mapping in Minnesota

DNR Ecological Resources

Statewide N/A 8/24/1999 Text
Lake mapping provides a visual representation of the shape and depth of Minnesota lakes, as well as important information about the lake ecosystem.
Hydrography Basin Standard

Gov. Council

Statewide N/A Current Text
This standard is for designating identification codes for state lakes and wetlands in GIS and other data applications.


*Source abbreviations:

back to top