Five Terrific (and Free) GIS Data Sources

I’m often asked where one can obtain free GIS data here in British Columbia. Times have changed. Where it was once difficult to find data, it in now commonplace for organizations to share their spatial data at little to no cost. As such there are now many organizations sharing their data freely. These include federal, provincial and local governments, non-profits, and even private corporations. If you’re looking for useful GIS data I recommend looking at the following five great sources:

  1. DataBC – – a large warehouse of public government data, applications and web services. You can find everything from commercial fishery areas to vegetative resource inventories. Other Canadian provinces such as Alberta (GeoDiscover) and Saskatchewan (GeoSask) offer comparable services.
  2. GeoGratis – – GeoGratis is a portal provided by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) which provides geospatial data at no cost. The popular GeoBase portal was recently incorporated into GeoGratis. This is an especially good place to find Canada-wide topographic and satellite imagery datasets among others.
  3. UBC Geographic Information Centre Air Photo Collection – the home of approximately 2.5 million federal, provincial and private air photos dating from 1922 to 2009 for many areas in B.C. and some areas of the Yukon. These photos can be acquired on loan and scanned and digitized to create great historic coverages for viewing and analysis within a GIS.
  4. Canada’s Open Government Portal – – I am admittedly not as familiar with this source as the others but it’s currently home to 244,568 datasets. These include everything from monthly pipeline occurrence statistics, breeding bird survey maps, to land use maps. There is a lot to explore here.
  5. Integrated Cadastral Information Society – – ICIS is a non-profit organization whose members include First Nations, various levels of government, and utlities. Members submit their data for sharing to ICIS making membership especially valuable to First Nations seeking infrastructure and utilitiy-related datasets.

-Pano Skrivanos

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