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North Dakota Water Science Center

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USGS North Dakota Water Science Center


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USGS Water Science Centers are located in each state.

There is a USGS Water Science Center office in each State. Washington Oregon California Idaho Nevada Montana Wyoming Utah Colorado Arizona New Mexico North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma Texas Minnesota Iowa Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Wisconsin Illinois Mississippi Michigan Indiana Ohio Kentucky Tennessee Alabama Pennsylvania West Virginia Georgia Florida Caribbean Alaska Hawaii New York Vermont New Hampshire Maine Massachusetts South Carolina North Carolina Rhode Island Virginia Connecticut New Jersey Maryland-Delaware-D.C.

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Mapping and Lewis & Clark

Modern Mapping

USGS Mapping and Scientific Products

 Mapping and the U.S. Geological Survey

The U.S. Geological Survey ensures access to basic geospatial data and earth science information for users worldwide. Through its National Mapping Program, the U.S. Geological Survey "provides geographic, cartographic, and remotely sensed information, maps, and technical assistance, and it conducts related research in response to national needs."  Through the U.S. Geological Survey, public funds are used to provide inexpensive maps to benefit the public. Among these benefits are the maps visitors receive when they tour national parks and forests. Maps and mapping data are used by emergency response systems, law enforcement, resource managers, and environmental monitoring projects. Private businesses and individual citizens also use U.S. Geological Survey products in a variety of ways to support the growth of commerce and augment the quality of life (U.S. Geological Survey, 1997).

 Missouri River Maps

The map shown below indicates the course of the Missouri River, in North Dakota, before the river was significantly altered by dams.

Map of North Dakota prior to the completion of Garrison Dam.

Map of North Dakota, prior to the completion of Garrison Dam (pre 1954).
U.S. Geological Survey


The geography of the Missouri River significantly changed between 1933, when construction of Fort Peck Dam in Montana was started, and 1966, when the last of six upper Missouri River dams, Big Bend in South Dakota, was completed.  Construction of Garrison Dam in North Dakota began in 1947 and ended in 1954.  Construction of Oahe Dam in South Dakota, which also affects the course of the Missouri River in North Dakota, began in 1948 and ended in 1962.

The maps shown below indicate the course of the Missouri River today.

Map of North Dakota after the completion of the Garrison and Oahe Dams.

Map of North Dakota, after the completion of the Garrison and Oahe Dams (post 1962).
U.S. Geological Survey




The map to the right is an animated map, continuously rotating different images.  Every 6 seconds, an additional layer of information is displayed.  After the last layer is displayed, the animation sequence starts over.  The following five images are used:

  1. Water resources between Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe,

  2. the first map with cities added,

  3. the second map with county lines added,

  4. the third map with township lines added, and

  5. the fourth map with  major highways added.

    Proper viewing of this map requires a browser capable of processing JavaScript.  If the map does not display properly, click HERE to see all five images displayed on one page.
Map Series

U.S. Geological Survey

The above map also gives an indication of the wetlands resources of North Dakota.  Wetlands are ecologically and economically valuable to the State.  Wetlands trap, remove, and transform waterborne constituents by processes such as sedimentation, plant uptake, microbial transformation, and soil adsorption.  Attenuation of runoff from snowmelt and rainfall by wetlands reduces flows into streams and rivers and reduces the potential for bank and channel erosion.  In some areas, the water held in a wetland recharges the local ground-water system.

 U.S. Geological Survey Gaging Stations along the Lewis and Clark Trail

The USGS, in cooperation with about 30 Federal, State, and local agencies, operates an extensive hydrologic data-collection program. Data are collected at streamflow and lake-level stations, ground-water observation wells, water-quality stations, and atmospheric-deposition stations. Current-year data, which are published annually, are critical for the daily administration and management of water resources; for determination of the extent and severity of droughts; for characterization and prediction of conditions during floods; and for monitoring the effects of human activities on streamflow, ground water, and water quality. The data also are essential to interpretive studies that provide information about water issues that potentially affect all North Dakotans.

To view realtime streamflow conditions, click on the map below.

Map of USGS gaging stations along the Lewis and Clark Trail

Map of USGS gaging stations along the Lewis and Clark Trail
U.S. Geological Survey

Realtime data are also available on a USGS World Wide Web page at  Streamflow and stage information for the last 7 days, current stage relative to recorded peak stages, and streamflow for the previous 18 months are provided in graphic form along with information such as station location and length of record.

 North Dakota Maps

North Dakota is located in two provinces of the Interior Plains (see figure below). The line that separates these provinces passes through the middle of the State along the base of the eastern escarpment of the Great Plains. The Great Plains province lies to the west of the line, and the Central Lowland province lies to the east of the line.

Physiography of North Dakota

Physiography of North Dakota
U.S. Geological Survey

A major drainage divide transects the State from the northwestern corner, near the eastern edge of the morainal part of the Great Plains, to the center of the State and then to the southeast between the James and Sheyenne Rivers.  The southwestern part of the State is drained by the Missouri River, a tributary of the Mississippi River.  The northeastern part is drained by the Red River of the North, which flows to Hudson Bay.

The drainage patterns in the Great Plains province generally are well defined except in the Coteau du Missouri, an area of complex glacial moraines.  Much of the Coteau does not have integrated drainage and does not contribute surface runoff to the streams.  The Central Lowland province is a glaciated area that is covered with glacial till, fine-grained lake sediments, and glaciofluvial drift that consists mainly of sand and gravel deposits.  Land in the Central Lowland province slopes slightly to the northeast from about 2,000 feet above sea level along the western border of the lowland to 800 feet above sea level at the northeastern corner of the State.  Much of the lowland has poorly developed drainage, and closed basins in the area range in size from a few acres to as much as 3,800 square miles.

Clicking on one of the basins on the map below will take you to a list of station numbers and names that are links to current streamflow conditions for that basin.

Souris River Basin Devils Lake Basin Red River Basin Sheyenne River Basin James River Basin Missouri River Basin Little Missouri River Basin Knife River Basin Heart River Basin Cannonball River BasinNorth Dakota Basin Map

Subbasins in the Missouri River and the Red River of the North Basins in North Dakota.
U.S. Geological Survey

 National Elevation Dataset

The following shaded relief images of North Dakota and the conterminous United States are part of the National Elevation Dataset.  Elevation is shown as a range of colors  from dark green for low elevations to white for high elevations.

National Elevation Data Set Shaded Relief of North Dakota

National Elevation Data Set Shaded Relief of the United States

The National Elevation Dataset (NED) is a seamless raster product derived primarily from USGS 30-meter Digital Elevation Models, and higher resolution data where available.  NED data for the conterminous United States are expressed by geographic coordinates (latitude/longitude).  Horizontal data are referenced to the North American Datum of 1983, (NAD83) and vertical data are referenced to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88).


U.S. Geological Survey, 1997, rev. 1999, Strategic Plan for the National Mapping Division of the U.S. Geological Survey: accessed August 10, 2001, at URL

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