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Creating GPS Waypoints Online From The USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)

The USGS GNIS is a gazetteer database of close to two million geographic landmarks in the United States (and, oddly enough, Antarctica as well). Types of landmarks include manmade (airports, hospitals, populated places, etc.) as well as natural (summits, arches, cliffs, etc.). There’s a direct interface to the GNIS at the USGS’s Board Of Geographic Names website that lets you search by feature name and get:

  • Federally recognized feature name,
  • Feature type,
  • Elevation (where available),
  • Estimated 1994 population of incorporated cities and towns,
  • State(s) and county(s) in which the feature is located,
  • Latitude and longitude of the feature location,
  • List of USGS 7.5-minute x 7.5-minute topographic maps on which the feature is shown, and
  • Names other than the federally recognized name by which the feature may be or have been known.
  • Links to sites offering map viewers for graphical display of the feature
  • Link to site offering information about the watershed area in which the feature is located

You can also download tab-delimited text files for individual states, or all states in one large file.

There’s another site with GNIS data, plus some extras. lets you search a copy of the GNIS database for US features, but has some additional options as well:

  • Browse for features by county, filtering by feature type
  • Add features to a waypoint list, then export the list directly from the browser to any GPS waypoint format supported by GPSBabel (GPX, EasyGPS, Garmin MapSource, Fugawi, OziExplorer, etc.)
  • Plot the feature’s location in Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Virtual Earth, Terraserver, and a bunch more
  • Find the National Weather Service 7-day forecast for that location
  • Find the nearest recorded Degree Confluence point
  • Find the nearest geocaches
  • And a bunch more …

And Wayhoo requires no registration; you just need to have cookies enabled on your browser if you want to create a waypoint list.

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