For this month’s Free For All!, I turn my attention north of the border to an impressive collection of free geospatial data for all of Canada. During the hunt for free Canadian GIS data, I ran across numerous such sites and chose GeoGratis for its ease of use, its search and download options and its Web Map Services (WMS) feed. A close second is GeoDiscover which contains more information than GeoGratis but is harder to navigate and lacks a WMS. Another nice option with GeoGratis is that users are not forced to register with the website to download data – which can save time when you are in a hurry to find the Canadian GIS data you need.
GeoGratis contains more than 100 collections of GIS data that can be accessed through a keyword search and by browsing the entire database in an alphabetic list. Once users ID the collection they are interested in, data is either downloaded by the province or through an FTP interface for more detailed products.
My favorite way to access this database is through the Toporama WMS. Here is a link to the English version of the WMS which gives you access to 16 Canadian data layers – including roads, vegetation, contours and hydrography – which can be toggled on and off in your GIS of choice:
The WMS is scale dependent and rather responsive. You can find out more about the Toporama WMS here.
Brock Adam McCarty