Frequently Asked Questions

GeoGratis Search Tool

  1. How do I conduct a search in the GeoGratis tool?
  2. Who can I contact if I have a problem?
  3. What kind of products can I find here?
  4. Where are the download directories that the GeoGratis site offered?
  5. Why do I have to select a specific geographic name before seeing my product search results?
  6. What do I do if I selected the wrong geographic name or would just like to select another one?
  7. Can I search using more than one geographic name?
  8. How do I download products?
  9. Is it possible to access files using a FTP client (for example Filezilla, BulletProof FTP, etc.)?

GeoBase

  1. What is the GeoBase initiative?
  2. How do I find the GeoBase collections and their documentation on GeoGratis website?
  3. Where can I find GeoBase interactive indexes?

GeoGratis Products

  1. What rights come with a GeoGratis licence agreement for unrestricted use of digital data?
  2. What is the difference among vector, raster and tabular data?
  3. What is the National Topographic System (NTS)?
  4. What is the coverage of a digital data set at the scale of 1:50 000 and 1:250 000?
  5. What is the necessary disc space to store the most popular products on the GeoGratis website?
  6. What are the main characteristics for CanMatrix-Print_Ready, CanMatrix-Georeferenced, Toporama and CanTopo products?
  7. What are the GeoPDF format advantages for CanTopo products?
  8. How can I perform format translation of the downloaded data?
  9. How can I perform coordinate or geodetic reference system transformation of the downloaded data?
  10. How can I open a raster or vector data file if I don't have a GIS software?
  11. How to convert the format of data available on the GeoGratis website to display the data in my GPS?
  12. The data are currently expressed in the NAD83CSRS reference system; does this mean that the NAD83 data were converted to NAD83CSRS?
  13. How can I find the magnetic declination for a specific location?
  14. How to relate a symbol library for some vector products with the ArcMap GIS software version 10 and higher?
  15. Where can I find the symbology (legend) for CanTopo and CanMatrix topographic maps and for Toporama raster files?

Miscellaneous

  1. Where can I buy paper topographical maps of Canada?
  2. Where can I purchase aerial photography?
  3. Where can I find Cadastral data?

GeoGratis Search Tool

1. How do I conduct a search in the GeoGratis tool?

The Search tool allows to enter some search criteria and then selecting a product(s) from the search results. The search criteria are:

  1. Geographic Location: There are 3 types of geographic locations using the autocomplete function that can be used for a search. These locations are used to define the geographic area of the search.
    1. A place or geographic feature name. Examples of place names would include cities, towns, villages and localities. Example of geographic feature names would include lakes, rivers, mountains and points of land. When a search is done GeoGratis will first do a search of the official Canadian Geographic Names Database all possible occurrences of the name entered and will present this list first. One must then be selected, prompting GeoGratis to then conduct a product search based on Subject Keywords and Product Types selected and described below.
    2. FSA code, for example: K1G.
    3. National Topographic Series (NTS) map number, for example: 31G5.
  2. Subject Keywords: These are free text keywords describing the subject or theme of the search. If multiple keywords are entered then the search result will be more specific, containing only results that match all the entered keywords.
  3. Product Type: Every product in the GeoGratis database is identified as one of 5 types. A search can include any combination of them including all of them.
    1. Maps: Maps are prepared and published cartographic products. Examples include Canadian GeoScience, topographic, Atlas of Canada and wall and poster maps. Maps are offered in many easily viewable formats such as PDF, JPEG and TIFF.
    2. Data: Data are geospatial products, typically used in a Geographic Information System (GIS) that can be used to create maps, conduct analyses and perform research. Data can be in various specialized vector and tabular formats.
    3. Remotely Sensed Data: This specialized type of raster data is collected from a distance using a sensor in a satellite or aircraft or from an underwater device towed by a ship. It is typically used with specialized software for research and analysis.
    4. Elevation Data: This specialized type of raster data product is a digital model or 3D representation of the earth's surface. It is created from other data sources such as the 1:50 000 National Topographic Database (NTDB) or remotely sensed data. Elevations are usually expressed in reference to mean sea level.
    5. Publications: Publications are fully edited, published books, reports and volumes of geoscience and other geospatial research. They are available in common viewable formats such as PDF.
  4. Searches can also be done using an advanced search form. This allows more specific information to be used and thus provides for a more specific search result. The categories of search criteria for an advanced search are the following:
    1. Geographical name: place and feature names
    2. National topographic System (NTS) map number
    3. FSA code
    4. Geographical extent by specific coordinates
    5. Geographical extent by interactive map
    6. Subject keywords: any user defined keywords
    7. Product type: any combination of maps, data, remotely sensed data, elevation data, publications
    8. Author name
    9. Published year or year range
    10. Series / Collection: a selection of existing series or collections from a pull down menu

Notice for keyboard users
To navigate through the fields of GeoGratis Search tool, use the Tab key and to activate the selected field, use the Space bar.
On the table of results, to zoom in the area of a product on the map, use the Tab key to activate the ID number and click on the Enter key.

2. Who can I contact if I have a problem?

If you do not find answers to your questions or to submit your comments, suggestions and ideas about GeoGratis. Please contact us using one of the methods below:

3. What kind of products can I find here?

This site combines the former GeoPub, Mirage and GeoGratis collections.

The original GeoGratis collection includes raster data, such as satellite images or scanned topographic maps, vector data, such as national-scale frameworks (grouped by theme), and a database of ground control points.

The original GeoPub collection contains Geological Survey of Canada publications, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing articles, and ESS Business Plans / Annual Reviews.

The original MIRAGE collection is a digital image library of Geological Survey of Canada maps. The GSC has published thousands of maps since the mid-1800's. More than 10,000 of these maps have been scanned and are available here.

4. Where are the download directories that the GeoGratis site offered?

The Download Directory and Documentation section is located in the left side menu. You will find the list of the most popular products and FTP links.

5. Why do I have to select a specific geographic name before seeing my product search results?

When a geographic name is entered as search criteria, there is no way to know what specific name it is. Many geographic names occur multiple times for many different types of features so it is necessary to select the one that most closely matches that intend area for the search. Here is an example of how many variations there can be for one geographic name, Victoria. There are 159 occurrences of the name, of which there are:

  • 49 place names
  • 11 administrative areas such as unincorporated areas
  • 57 water features such as lakes and rivers
  • 42 terrain features such as mountains, islands and capes

6. What do I do if I selected the wrong geographic name or would just like to select another one?

The geographic name originally selected will appear in the geographic location text box in the search criteria section at the top of the page. To select one of the other names that appeared on the list, simple click the search button and the list will reappear and then select another name.

To search using another geographic name, enter the new name in the geographic locations text box replacing the name already display. Click the search button and a new list of geographic names will appear and one can be selected.

7. Can I search using more than one geographic name?

No, only one geographic name can be used for each search.

8. How do I download products?

There are two ways to download products. The first is from the product Download link in the search Results List. If you expand the Results List you will see the links in the far right Download column. Clicking the appropriate link will allow you to download that product.

You can also access the product download links from the Product Summary page. Clicking on the Product name in the Search Results List will take you to the Product Summary page for that specific product. The Download or Access section of the page will have the links to allow you to download that product.

9. Is it possible to access files using a FTP client (for example Filezilla, BulletProof FTP, etc.)?

This method is more robust and is worth using when you download a large amount of files.

You need the FTP address where the product to connect to a FTP client is, for example:

CanVec: http://ftp.geogratis.gc.ca/pub/nrcan_rncan/vector/canvec
Toporama: http://ftp.geogratis.gc.ca/pub/nrcan_rncan/raster/toporama/
CDEM (Canadian Digital Elevation Model): http://ftp.geogratis.gc.ca/pub/nrcan_rncan/elevation/cdem
Other FTP directories for GeoGratis products can be accessed from the Download Directory and Documentation web page.

GeoBase

1. What is the GeoBase initiative?

GeoBase is a federal, provincial and territorial government initiative that is overseen by the Canadian Council on Geomatics (CCOG). It is undertaken to ensure the provision of, and access to, a common, up-to-date and maintained base of quality geospatial data for all of Canada. 

Through the GeoBase initiative, users with an interest in the field of geomatics can access quality geospatial information at no cost and with unrestricted use.

2. How do I find the GeoBase collections and their documentation on GeoGratis website?

All collections have a ‘GeoBase’ prefix.

Documentation: All documents are available in the /doc directory on the FTP site of each collection. The Product Description PDF file is the information formerly on GeoBase web pages (first column below).

Collections : Product Descriptions (number of files) Formats Downloads: Search Tool Downloads: FTP Site Release Notes
GeoBase - Canadian Digital Elevation Data (CDED) (14,579) USGS ASCII CDED-Search CDED-FTP Site -
GeoBase - National Hydro Network (NHN) (1,380) Shapefile, GML, FGDB, KML NHN-Search NHN-FTP Site NHN-Release (PDF, 1.0 MB)
GeoBase - National Road Network (NRN) (13) Shapefile, GML, KML NRN-Search NRN-FTP Site NRN-Release (PDF, 1.3 MB)
GeoBase - National Railway Network (NRWN) (11) Shapefile, GML, KML NRWN-Search NRWN-FTP Site NRWN-Release (PDF, 53 KB)
GeoBase - Land Cover, circa 2000-Vector (LCC2000-V) (969) Shapefile, GML L2000-Search L2000-FTP Site -
GeoBase - Canadian Geographical Names (1,051) Shapefile, GML, KML, TXT CGN-Search CGN-FTP Site -
Administrative Boundaries        
GeoBase - Aboriginal Lands of Canada (14) Shapefile, GML, KML ACL-Search ACL-FTP Site -
GeoBase - Municipal Boundaries (8) Shapefile, GML, KML Muni-Search Muni-FTP Site Muni-Release (PDF, 70 KB)
GeoBase - Federal Electoral Districts (2) Shapefile, GML, KML FED-Search FED-FTP Site -
GeoBase - Canadian Geopolitical Boundaries (1) Shapefile, GML, KML CGB-Search CGB-FTP Site -
Satellite Imagery        
GeoBase - GeoBase Orthoimage 2005-2010 (5,344) GeoTIFF SPOT-O-Search SPOT-O-FTP Site -
GeoBase - GeoBase Raw Imagery 2005-2010 (5,270) CAP, DIMAP SPOT-R-Search SPOT-R-FTP Site -
GeoBase - Landsat-7 Orthoimage (793) GeoTIFF L7-O-Search L7-O-FTP Site -
GeoBase - Landsat-7 Level 1-G (1,003) HDF L7-R-Search L7-R-FTP Site -
GeoBase - RADARSAT-1 Orthorectified Imagery (5) GeoTIFF RADAR-Search RADAR-FTP Site -
GeoBase - Control Points for Landsat 7 Imagery (1) Shapefile, GML CPLIC-Search CPLIC-FTP Site -
Canadian Geodetic Network        
GeoBase – Primary Vertical Bench Marks (1) Shapefile, GML PVBM-Search PVBM-FTP Site -
GeoBase – Canadian Base Network (1) Shapefile, GML CBN-Search CBN-FTP Site -
GeoBase – Federal 2-D Densification Network (1) Shapefile, GML F2D-Search F2D-FTP Site -
GeoBase – Federal 3-D Densification Network (1) Shapefile, GML F3D-Search F3D-FTP Site -

3. Where can I find GeoBase interactive indexes?

GeoBase interactive indexes to downloadable files are not available anymore. Use the HTML geospatial product index to visualize an inventory of our most popular collections and to download the files. Click on the desired data type under ‘Data Types’, then choose a collection in the ‘Collections’ section. Zoom and click on the desired region to select the files.

You will also find a KMZ index to view in Google Earth.

GeoGratis Products

1. What rights come with a GeoGratis licence agreement for unrestricted use of digital data?

Use of the data is subject to the Open Government Licence – Canada.

2. What is the difference among vector, raster and tabular data?

Maps, tabular data, summary statistics, and remotely sensed imagery are examples of geographic information that can be input to a GIS.

Raster charts are digitized by "scanning" the paper chart, using technology common in desktop publishing. Each tiny segment of each line on a chart is converted to a "raster" picture element or "pixel". These pixels are similar to a television picture. Beyond geo-referencing, there is no intelligence inherent in the image. For example, you may interpret a string of pixels to be the number "2" but the computer cannot do this.

CanMatrix product available on GeoGratis website is an example of raster data.

Vector charts are "smart charts" that carry geo-spatial intelligence within the data and have a database of information associated with them. For instance, on a vector chart you can click on different features, such as a road or a waterbody, and retrieve additional information on them. Vector charts also allow users more control over the display of the chart, such as the ability to turn different layers of information on and off.

CanVec product available on GeoGratis website is an example of vector data.

Tabular data is data shown under tab form.

North American Conservation Areas database (NCAD) product available on GeoGratis website is an example of tabular data.

3. What is the National Topographic System (NTS)?

The National Topographic System (NTS) is a system of divisions used primarily for topographic maps of the Canadian landmass. Maps at the 1:250 000 scale are identified by a combination of numbers and letters from A to P (e.g. 13C).

A map at the 1:50 000 scale corresponds to 1/16 of a map at the 1:250 000 scale, with each unit numbered from 01 to 16. Adding the unit number to the 1:250 000 number produces a unique identifier (e.g. 13C09).

4. What is the coverage of a digital data set at the scale of 1:50 000 and 1:250 000?

A digital data set at the 1:50 000 scale covers about 1,100 km², or approximately 40 km (30 arc-minutes) by 28 km (15 arc-minutes). A digital data set at the 1:250 000 scale covers about 18,000 km², or approximately 160 km (2 degrees of arc) by 110 km (1 degrees of arc). A digital data set at the 1:250 000 scale covers the same area as 16 digital data sets at the 1:50 000 scale.

5. What is the necessary disc space to store the most popular products on the GeoGratis website?

Product Format Nbrs files out of the complete coverage Disk space compressed Disk space non compressed 021E05/021E disk space non compressed

NTDB
1:50 000

Shapefile

11,525 out of 11,525

3 GB

17 GB

8 MB

NTDB
1:250 000

Shapefile

981 out of 981

3 GB

17 GB

8 MB

CanMatrix -Georeferenced 1:50 000

GeoTiff

12,126 out of 12,126

234 GB

700 GB

30 MB

CanMatrix -Georeferenced 1:250 000

GeoTiff

913 out of 913

12 GB

35 GB

66 MB

CanMatrix - Print Ready
1:50 000

Tiff

12,119 out of 12,119

251 GB

275 GB

329 MB

CanMatrix - Print Ready
1:250 000

Tiff

913 out of 913

9 GB

10 GB

22 MB

CanVec - Canada Shape 13 out of 13 94.5 GB 348 GB -
CanVec - Canada GDB 13 out of 13 51.3 GB 74 GB -

CanImage
1:50 000

GeoTiff

13,457 out of 13,457

78 GB

180 GB

15 MB

Toporama

GeoTiff

15,308 out of 15,308

69 GB

320 GB

48 MB

6. What are the main characteristics for CanMatrix-Print_Ready, CanMatrix-Georeferenced, Toporama and CanTopo products?

Characteristics CanMatrix-Print_Ready CanMatrix-Georeferenced Toporama CanTopo
Data Source Digital paper maps from NRCan Digital paper maps from NRCan NRCan Vector Data NRCan Vector Data
Output Type Polychrome, monochrome and photomap Polychrome, monochrome and photomap Polychrome Polychrome
Symbology Varies with the map style and publication date Varies with the map style and publication date Uniform through out Canada Uniform through out Canada
Scale 1:50 000 and 1:250 000 1:50 000 and 1:250 000 1:50 000 1:50 000
Projection UTM UTM UTM and Geographic Coordinates (Lat/Long) UTM
Map Surround Yes Yes No Yes
Georeference No Yes Yes Yes
Datum NAD27 or NAD83 NAD83 NAD83 NAD83
Format TIFF and PDF GeoTIFF GeoTIFF non compressed PDP, GeoPDF, TIFF, GeoTIFF
Resolution 300 dpi, polychrome (8 bits), monochrome (16 bits), for TIFF format only 300 dpi (8 bits, 256 grayscale levels) 72 dpi (RGB 24 bits) 300 dpi, polychrome (8 bits), for TIFF and GeoTIFF formats only
Use Paper map prints Reference Data Reference Data Paper map prints
% Coverage Limited at 90% of Canadian landmass at the 1:50 000 scale (12,126/12,126 files) Limited at 90% of Canadian landmass at the 1:50 000 scale (12,126/12,126 files) 100% of the coverage of Canada (15,308/15,308 files) Limited at 22% of Canadian landmass at the 1:50 000 scale (2,234 files)
Validity From 1944 to 2005 (Average of 1980) From 1944 to 2005 (Average of 1980) From 1944 to 2012 (Average of 1998) From 1946 to 2012 (Average of 2007)
Accuracy From 7 metres to Unknown From 7 metres to Unknown 30 metres or better 30 metres or better
Updates No No No No

7. What are the GeoPDF format advantages for CanTopo products?

We chose to also provide CanTopo in GeoPDF format because, as a georeferenced product, it provides simple and useful functionalities for non-GIS users. For example, a free toolbar available from TerraGo Technologies will enable a user to:

  • Measure distance and area
  • View different coordinates
  • Zoom to a coordinate
  • Add 'GeoStamps', polygons, lines and comments
  • 'Google Maps' a specific coordinate
  • Connect to a GPS device
  • Turn on/off layers in the file.

Additionally, the GeoPDF format is endorsed as a best practice by the Open Geospatial Consortium and can be used in many GIS environments by advanced users.

8. How can I perform format translation of the downloaded data?

The GDAL/OGR Simple Feature Library can be used to perform format translation. This library is a C++ open source library providing read and write access to a variety of vector file formats including Geography Markup Language (GML), ESRI Shape, Oracle and MapInfo MID/MIF or TAB. For more details, see the GDAL website.

9. How can I perform coordinate or geodetic reference system transformation of the downloaded data?

The GDAL/OGR Simple Feature Library can be used to perform coordinate transformation. For more information, please see the GDAL website.

To transform geographic coordinates to a wide variety of coordinate systems, map projections, and datum, please see the MSP GEOTRANS website.

If you want Coordinate Converter for UTM, Lat/Long and ATS, free for Alberta and Northern BC, please see the MapTown website.

If you want Geographic coordinate transformation: geographic coordinates and rectangular coordinates MTU, SCOPQ (MTM) and Lambert (Quebec only/French only), please see the Logiciel SYREQ section on the Ministère de l’Énergie et Ressources naturelles du Québec website.

If you want Geographic coordinate datum transformation or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinate datum transformation, please see Tools and Applications section of the Geodetic Reference Systems on the Natural Resources Canada website.

10. How can I open a raster or vector data file if I don't have a GIS software?

Here are a few links to freeware which can be used to edit or display downloaded data. However, take note that GeoGratis does not endorse nor support any of these software.

Free editing and viewing software

Software to process and manipulate Elevation Data (CDED, CDEM, and CDSM)

Software to process and manipulate National Hydro Network (NHN) Data

  • FME (Feature Manipulation Engine) - Feature Manipulation Software for viewing, translating, transforming, integrating and distributing spatial data
  • Open JUMP - GIS software suite for viewing and manipulating spatial data
  • RivEX - GIS River network tool
  • River2D - GIS software suite for hydrodynamic
  • TauDEM - Terrain Analysis Using Digital Elevation Model (TauDEM)

Data in GeoTIFF or GeoPDF format can easily be viewed by any image software that recognizes the TIFF or PDF file format. GIS software supports georeferenced GeoTIFF or GeoPDF and maintains the image georeferencing automatically. More information about the GeoTIFF format can be found at OSGeo.

You will find a list of free viewers at FreeGIS.

Here is a list of open source GIS software identified by the OSGeo Fondation.

11. How to convert the format of data available on the GeoGratis website to display the data in my GPS?

GPS resources available:

Data

12. The data are currently expressed in the NAD83CSRS reference system; does this mean that the NAD83 data were converted to NAD83CSRS?

No.

Prior to the launching of the CanVec product in April 2007, certain data that made up the product were expressed in NAD83CSRS, while the majority was in NAD83. The intention was to provide all the data in one and the same reference system. It is for this reason that it was decided to express the data in the NAD83CSRS reference system.

This decision gave the impression that the daunting task of converting data from NAD83 to NAD83CSRS would be undertaken.

However, one must acknowledge that the average difference in Canada between the NAD83 reference systems and NAD83CSRS is 0.3 metre with a maximum observed deviation of 1.7 metre. Since the majority of data expressed in NAD83 have an accuracy of 10 metres or more, the effect of a general conversion would do nothing to improve the accuracy of the new converted data. Furthermore, there is no conversion of the grid across the entire Canadian landscape. Such a grid is necessary to convert data from one system to another.

In view of these facts, it was decided that the data collected in NAD83 would be expressed in NAD83CSRS without performing any conversion of data from NAD83 to NAD83CSRS.

It must be noted that this decision does not in any way compromise the topological relationships of data and that the majority of new data will be collected according to the NAD83CSRS reference system.

13. How can I find the magnetic declination for a specific location?

You can look up the magnetic declination for a specific location by using the Magnetic declination calculator on the website of Natural Resources Canada's National Geomagnetism Program.

14. How to relate a symbol library for some vector products with the ArcMap GIS software version 10 and higher?

CanVec:

Download CanVec_en_Symbol.zip (FTP) to use the symbology, which includes the instructions, the font, the CanVec.mxd file, and the CanVec.style style sheet.

Archive
CanVec+ (2015), CanVec (2013), and NTDB (National Topographic Data Base):

Here are instructions to use the symbology. In addition, you can download an add-in. This add-in is an extension for ArcMap GIS software and this can display the symbology of the canvecEnglish.style and ntdb.style style sheets.

GeoGratis does not endorse nor provide any kind of support for this product and considers that you have the basic knowledge to understand the information contained in the instructions.

15. Where can I find the symbology (legend) for CanTopo and CanMatrix topographic maps and for Toporama raster files?

You can download a PDF version of the legend for these products:

CanTopo
CanMatrix
Toporama

You can also download the CanTopo Map Standards and Specifications 1:50 000.

Miscellaneous

1. Where can I buy paper topographical maps of Canada?

You will find the list of Regional Distribution Centres at the Canada Map Office here.

2. Where can I purchase aerial photography?

The National Air Photo Library archives millions of aerial photographs covering all of Canada, some of which date back to the 1920s. To contact one of their officers, call 1-800-465-6277.

You can also contact provincial governments to obtain aerial photographs, here:

There are also other distributor organizations of aerial photography which you can find on the Internet.

3. Where can I find Cadastral data?

Canada Lands Cadastral Data are managed and distributed by Natural Resources Canada.