DNR Major/Minor Watershed file - 1995 version (WSHED95)

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1. Identification Information
2. Data Quality Information
3. Spatial Data Organization Information
4. Spatial Reference Information
5. Entity and Attribute Information
6. Distribution Information
7. Metadata Reference Information

Section 1

Identification Information

Originator Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Waters
Title DNR Major/Minor Watershed file - 1995 version (WSHED95)
Abstract The 'State of Minnesota Watershed Boundaries - 1979' map provides an overview of a major effort to develop detailed boundary maps of all watersheds of the state. The mapping of about 5600 watersheds, each of which is an area of at least five square miles and is enclosed by a continuous height-of-land drainage divide, enables close examination of the relationship between Minnesota's land and water, and will improve both planning and management of the state's waters. The file, WSHED95, represents the 81 major watersheds and the approximately 5600 minor watersheds delineated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the 1979 Watershed Mapping Project and scanned into a vector file in 1993. In addition, it incorporates 1995 updates to those delineations made by the United States Geological Survey and the Mankato State University Water Resources Center in the Minnesota River Basin and surrounding areas in South-Central Minnesota.

Areas of drainage into the Minnesota River Basin from Iowa and South Dakota are also represented on this file.
Purpose There were two reasons for determining watershed boundaries statewide: 1). To standardize and adopt an official set of boundaries which encompasses all previous mapping attempts; and 2). To provide a means for organizing land use and related data in a manner which is useful for hydrologic studies and decision-making. Previous watershed maps prepared by state and federal agencies had been of limited usefulness because of only partial coverage of the state or variations in boundary locations among maps. The procedures used for determining boundaries were usually not documented, preventing independent replication or expansion of the mapped area. No complete, systematic, and detailed state watershed map was previously available.
Time Period of Content Date 1995
Currentness Reference December, 1995, based on delineation done 1978-1979, using USGS 1:24,000 and 1:62,500 base maps, as available at the time. In areas covered by the USGS and Mankato State updates, base maps available in 1994-95 were used. In the update areas contributed by Mankato State, local ditch inventory information was also compiled and incorporated onto the basemaps before redelineation.
Progress Complete
Maintenance and Update Frequency Updated watershed coverages will be created periodically, to incorporate the work of more detailed watershed mapping efforts. There may be a need to go back to earlier versions in order to identify trends or to tie data to the set of boundaries with which it originated.
Spatial Extent of Data Minnesota, and the portions of the Minnesota River Basin in Iowa and South Dakota.
Bounding Coordinates -97.5
Place Keywords Minnesota, Statewide; portions of Iowa, South Dakota
Theme Keywords Minor Watersheds, Drainage Basins, Hydrology, Surface Water
Theme Keyword Thesaurus None
Access Constraints None
Use Constraints See lineage, attribute accuracy, and completeness for a further discussion of data lineage and data capture. Note that the delineations are based on a set of 1:24,000 (and sometimes 1:62,500) base maps only. No further detailed maps were used, and no field verification was performed on the boundaries. Some delineation inaccuracies have been observed in low relief areas in the northwestern part of the state, particularly in wetland areas. Watershed subbasins (MINOR7) have been delineated in some areas, although no subbasins identifier has been assigned. The delineations, and the resulting automated files, are not suitable for site-specific work.
Contact Person Information Glenn Radde,
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources/Waters
500 Lafayette Boulevard
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155
Phone: 651.297.4950
E-mail: glenn.radde@dnr.state.mn.us
Browse Graphic File Name none available
Browse Graphic File Description
Associated Data Sets ASSOCIATED DATA SETS:

DNR Major Watershed Names File - MAJOR95.TXT
DNR Minor Watershed Names File - WSHED95.TXT
Common Stream and Watershed Numbering System (CSAW) files (establish hydrologic order of minor watersheds.)
DNR Major watershed file (MAJOR95) - 1995 version. USGS has watershed files at this level and at higher-level aggregations.

Alternate names for the WSHED95 file at LMIC are BASINS95 and MINWS95. DNR maintains this file in their Core GIS Library as 'bas95ne3'.


a. 'Minnesota Watershed Mapping Project' (brochure) , DNR Office of Planning, Research and
Policy Section, Water Policy Planning Program, 1981.
b. 'Watershed Boundaries, 1979, Mapping Procedure Manual', DNR Office of Planning, Research and Policy Section, Water Policy Planning Program, 1979.
c. 'Stream Inventory and Data Retrieval Systems' (SIDRS) reports 7001 and 7002; DNR Office of Planning, 1981.
d. 'DOCUMENTAION: Surface Water Hydrology Geographic Information System for the South Central Minnesota Surface Water Hydrology Mapping Project. Mankato State University Water Resources Center (Cartographic and GIS Section). October , 1993. This documents the original ditch and watershed redelineation, not the procedure to merge the data with the DNR file.

Section 2

Data Quality Information - - - - - - Go back to top

Attribute Accuracy Watershed boundaries were scanned from the 1:100,000-scale map sheets, as described elsewhere. Linecodes designating the type of boundary line were added by DNR staff. Minor watershed codes were brought forward in an automated fashion from the earlier grid versions of the data file, then checked by DNR. The Land Management Information Center made a further check of the watershed polygon ID's, by creating a series of checkplots and visually checking the data. No statistical attribute checking was performed.
Logical Consistency
Completeness Data are complete at major and minor watershed levels. Subbasin delineations are not done statewide; subbasin identifiers have not been added. Most minor watersheds falling within Minnesota have been named.
Horizontal Positional Accuracy Not available
Lineage Watershed Mapping (1979)

The original watershed delineations on mylar overlays to the USGS 7.5-minute quadrangle map series (1:24,000) were done by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as part of the LCMR-sponsored Watershed Mapping Project (1977-1979). The mapping work was based on guidelines detailed in 'Watershed Boundaries 1979, Mapping Procedure Manual.' The manual explains the decision rules governing most aspects of the watershed mapping. These include the determination of minimum watershed size and the delineation of boundaries at the confluence points of streams, lakes, intermittent streams, and drainage ditches. The manual also provided a means for updating, correcting, and extending the watershed boundaries after the completion of the initial project.

A complete set of the latest 1:24,000 and 1:62,500 scale USGS topographic quadrangle maps formed the information base for the project. Where updated maps were not yet available in published form, preliminary USGS sheets containing topographical information and water features that were available in early 1978 were used.

Existing watershed maps were used as a starting point. An estimated sixty percent of the state had watersheds delineated, but needed extensive reworking to conform to project standards. Thirty percent of the state had watershed delineations that required little or no modification and the remaining ten percent of the state did not have watersheds delineated at all. In these latter areas it was necessary to start with the topographical maps and the delineations of the surrounding watershed boundaries. The larger watershed units were delineated (major watersheds), consistent with United States Geological Survey more generalized delineations, then were disaggregated to the smaller, minor watershed units.

Grid Cell Coding (1979)

The first GIS coverage of the data file (1979) consisted of the MLMIS40 Major and Minor Watershed files in EPPL grid cell code format (named EPP.WS30 and EPP.WS31, respectively). To create these files, a forty-acre template was overlayed on the delineations, and each 40-acre parcel in the state was assigned a major and minor watershed code, based upon the watershed which covered the major part of the area of each 40-acre parcel. These minor watersheds were assigned names (based on the major river or lake draining the minor) and Common Stream and Watershed Number (based on the earlier Kittle Stream Numbering System developed by DNR Fisheries in the 1960's, and a basin number assigned during this project. ). These numbers, assigned in the CSAW (Common Stream and Watershed Numbering) file, established the hydrologic ordering of all of the watersheds. The CSAW file and programs, originally in Fortran at the U of M, were converted to INFO by LMIC in the mid-1980's. Corrections were made to the major/minor watershed files (primarily duplicate minor watershed numbering) by DNR and LMIC in the mid-1980's.

Grid to Vector Conversion (1987)

A vectorized version of the MLMIS40 database was also created by LMIC (ca. 1987), based upon a conversion using statewide control points. The file was warped into a true geographic projection, using 50 control points across the state. The purpose was to create a watershed file which had true geographic referencing so that it could be used with other arc coverages. However, it was still 40-acre data and it retained the original stair-step forty-acre lines. These files are archived at LMIC as 'MAJOR' and 'WSHED', and are no longer used.

Scanned Vector Version - WSHED23 (1993)

In 1991, DNR obtained another LCMR grant to create a true vector coverage of this data. DNR reduced the 1:24,000 mylar overlays to 1:100,000 and appended them together to create 30' x 60' blocks at 1:100,000 scale. Internal linework was edgematched, and the map sheets were scanned, then appended together to create a statewide coverage. Linecodes, indicating the type of watershed boundary associated with each line, were added by DNR. Minor watershed codes from the previous vector cover (WSHED) were automatically assigned to the new cover, then checked manually by DNR. LMIC did a further check on minor watershed codes for the polygons.

Various data tables have been associated with this data set over time, as listed below. Some, such as CSAW and the NAMES files have been migrated from older GIS files to newer ones. Attempts have been made to update these files, dropping and changing minor watershed numbers as needed to keep up to date with the current version of the GIS file. However, some information has not been consistently carried forward. For instance, in the CSAW files, the geographic location of the outflow point (township, range, section, quarter-sections) has not been updated in cases where delineations may have changed slightly, possibly moving the outflow point of the watershed.

First Vector Update Version - WSHED95 (1995)

The 1995 version of this file is the first to incorporate non-DNR updates into the file. The file draws upon the work of two other activities: the Mankato State University's Surface Hydrologic Atlas work in 13 South-Central Minnesota, and the United States Geological Survey's work in watershed delineation in the Minnesota River Basin.

The Water Resources Center at Mankato State University had done watershed delineation as part of a South Central Minnesota Hydrologic Atlas Project (1992-1993). As part of this project, MSU obtained ditch maps from the involved counties, transferred ditch information onto the USGS 7.5-minute map sheets, and redelineated the minor watersheds based on the additional flow information provided by the ditch delineations. The basic DNR watershed numbering scheme was kept, with the linework modified as necessary. MSU did not carry forward the sub-basin delineations (7-digit minor watershed). Other changes to the file structure included the addition of fields denoting the agency providing the delineation and the year in which the delineation was done.

The United States Geological Survey Water Resources Division in St. Paul had earlier completed a vector version of the watershed file for the Minnesota River Basin area. USGS digitized the DNR delineations, making some corrections to the DNR delineations, and using updated quad maps where available. Sub-basins were delineated where there was a need to subdivide basins again - for instance, where there was a stream gage internal to a minor watershed. Further individual major basin studies done by USGS also contributed to better linework, where delineations were field-verified or studied in more detail.

The process for merging the data sets was as follows:

In general, the assumption was that the newest watershed boundary information was the best watershed boundary information, and that, when the linework was merged, the newest linework would replace the old. Therefore, at the boundaries between old and new delineations, the new delineations would be accepted and the old linework moved as necessary to connect. In areas where no updates were done, the linework in the WSHED95 cover is identical with the linework in the WSHED23 cover.

Step 1: Mankato State merged its South Central Minnesota watershed coverage with the DNR WSHED23 coverage, replacing the WSHED23 linework with the MSU linework in the overlapping area. At the border between the two areas, the MSU linework was assumed to supercede the DNR linework and the DNR watershed lines were adjusted to match up with the MSU lines. MSU added the PEDIGREE and PEDYEAR fields to the files. MSU used the DNR 5-digit minor watershed numbering system, but did not maintain the 7-digit (SUBBASIN) linework.

Step 2: USGS overlapped the combined Mankato State/DNR cover with its own cover of Minnesota River Basin watersheds. Where Mankato State (MSU) boundaries overlapped with USGS boundaries, the MSU boundaries took precedence, and the USGS linework was adjusted accordingly. Where the USGS boundaries overlapped with the DNR WSHED23 boundaries, the USGS boundaries took precedence, and the DNR linework was adjusted accordingly. PEDIGREE and PEDYEAR fields were updated by USGS, as appropriate.

Step 3: LMIC made a few additional corrections to the merged file, reflecting watershed label errors and linecode errors. The file was later converted from NAD27 to NAD83.
Source Scale Denominator 100000

Section 3

Spatial Data Organization Information - - - - - - Go back to top

Native Data Set Environment Arc/INFO 7.1.1
Geographic Reference for Tabular Data
Spatial Object Type Vector
Vendor Specific Object Types Polygon, Arc
Tiling Scheme Statewide Coverage (also tiled as 30' x 60')

Section 4

Spatial Reference Information - - - - - - Go back to top

Horizontal Coordinate Scheme UTM
Ellipsoid GRS80
Horizontal Datum NAD83
Horizontal Units Meters
Distance Resolution Not available
UTM Zone Number 15E

Section 5

Entity and Attribute Information - - - - - - Go back to top

Entity and Attribute Overview
Entity and Attribute Detailed Citation DNR MAJOR/MINOR WATERSHED NET COVER (WSHED95)

WSHED95 is a network file describing the boundaries of DNR minor watersheds. Watershed coding is as follows:


Minor watersheds have to date been delineated to the MINOR7 level, but only numbered to the MINOR5 level. SUBBASIN fields are currently blank. (In the areas redelineated by Mankato State, the delineation at the MINOR7 or SUBBASIN level was dropped.) The field, 'MAJOR', covers the same geographic unit as the USGS 8-digit Hydrologic Unit Code or 'HUC'. This allows aggregation to larger USGS national watershed boundaries.

WSHED95.PAT contains the following data fields:

1 AREA 8 18 F 5
9 PERIMETER 8 18 F 5
17 WSHED95# 4 5 B -
21 WSHED95-ID 4 5 B -
25 MAJOR 2 2 I -
27 MINOR5 5 5 I -
32 MINOR-NAME 40 40 C -
72 PEDIGREE 8 8 C -
80 PEDYEAR 4 4 I -
27 MAJ 2 2 I -
29 MINOR3 3 3 I -


AREA -- the area of the polygon in square meters
PERIMETER -- the perimeter of the polygon in meters
WSHED95# -- standard arc field - internal polygon number
WSHED95-ID -- standard arc field - polygon number
MAJOR -- the DNR major watershed number.
MINOR5 -- the DNR watershed code. This code is broken into 2 parts:
*** MAJOR - the 2-digit major watershed code (see MAJ, above)
*** MINOR (or MIN or MINOR3) - the 3-digit minor watershed code
MINOR-NAME -- the name of the minor watershed, as originally indicated from the 7.5-minute USGS maps or added by DNR or MSU.
PEDIGREE -- Indicates the code for the agency responsible for the line or polygon (originally DNR for all; replaced by MSU or USGS in the overlap areas).
PEDYEAR -- Indicates the year in which the watershed boundary lines were delineated or last changed.
MAJOR -- The DNR major watershed code for the watershed
MINOR3 -- The DNR 3-digit minor watershed code for the watershed ( the minor watershed code is only unique when used in conjunction with the major watershed number).

WSHED95.AAT contains the following data fields:

1 FNODE# 4 5 B -
5 TNODE# 4 5 B -
9 LPOLY# 4 5 B -
13 RPOLY# 4 5 B -
17 LENGTH 8 18 F 5
25 WSHED95# 4 5 B -
29 WSHED95-ID 4 5 B -
33 LINECODE 2 2 I -
35 PEDIGREE 8 8 C -
43 PEDYEAR 4 4 I -


FNODE# -- From Node number of arc
TNODE# -- To node number of arc
LPOLY# -- Left Polygon number of arc
RPOLY# -- Right polygon number of arc
LENGTH -- Length of arc ( in distance unit)
WSHED95# -- Internal arc number
WSHED95-ID -- Internal arc ID
LINECODE - - Code for the type of line feature being represented The linecode can have the following values:
1 ** Major or Minor watershed boundary (to 5-digit)
2 ** Subbasin boundary (7-digit)
3 ** Watershed outlet marker
4 ** Gaging station/outlet marker
8 ** State boundary, non-hydrologic
9 ** State boundary, hydrologic
PEDIGREE -- Indicates the code for the agency responsible for the line or polygon (originally DNR for all; replaced by MSU or USGS int he overlap areas).
PEDYEAR -- Indicates the year in chich the watershed boundary lines were delienated or last changed.

MAJOR WATERSHED NAMES FILE (MAJOR95.TXT - also known as NAMES_81) contains the following data fields:

1 MAJ 2 2 I -
3 SPACE 1 1 C -
4 MAJOR-NAME 25 25 C -
29 USGS-CODE 8 8 C - HUC

MAJ (2 I) - the DNR state 2-digit minor watershed code
SPACE - blank field separator
MAJOR-NAME - the name of the DNR state 2-digit major watershed
USGS-CODE - the USGS 8-digit Hydrologic Cataloging Unit Code for the DNR major watershed.

The DNR major watershed has the same boundary as the USGS 8-digit cataloging unit. This allows for easy reporting to federal agencies. The DNR minor watershed unit is a subdivision of the DNR major watershed unit. NOTE: This file identical to MAJOR23.TXT, as the major watersheds have not been renamed.


The file WSHED95.TXT contains names for all minor watersheds in the state. The name assigned to the minor watershed is the name of the major waterbody (stream or lake) which drains the minor watershed, as it appears on the USGS 1:24,000 topographic map series. Originally, the MINOR-NAME field on the file was blank if no name appeared on the USGS map. In 1994 and 1995, the Water Resources Center at Mankato State University and the Mn Department of Natural Resources Division of Waters added names for most of the previously unnamed watersheds. In most cases these names identified the waterbody which this minor watershed is tributary to, for example: 'Creek to Willow Creek'. Although some watershed names are still blank, the majority of minor watersheds now have names. The updated WSHED95.TXT file (derived from WSHED23-NAMES and WSHED23.TXT) was created on December 4, 1995. Minor watershed basins entirely outside the state boundary do not have names assigned.

WSHED95.TXT contains the following data fields:

1 MAJOR 2 2 I - MAJ
3 MINOR 3 3 I - MIN
6 MINOR5 5 5 I
6 MINOR-NAME 40 40 C -

MAJOR (2 I) - the DNR state 2-digit major watershed code
MINOR (3 I) - the DNR state 3-digit minor watershed code
MINOR5 - The DNR 5-digit minor watershed code is a combination of the items MAJOR and MINOR. The item MINOR is not unique in itself but needs the item MAJOR to define the major watershed in which it is located and to make it unique.
MINOR-NAME - the name of the DNR minor watershed

Section 6

Distribution Information - - - - - - Go back to top

Publisher Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Land Management Information Center, Minnesota Planning
Publication Date 1995
Contact Person Information Susanne Maeder,
Land Management Information Center (LMIC), Minnesota Planning
330 Centennial Building; 658 Cedar Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155
Phone: 651.296.1211
FAX: 651.296.1212
E-mail: clearinghouse@mnplan.state.mn.us
Distributor's Data Set Identifier
Distribution Liability All geographic information has limitations due to the scale, resolution, date and interpretation of the original source materials. LMIC is not responsible for any interpretation or conclusions, based on this data, made by those who acquire or use it. Although every effort has been made to produce error free and complete data, no other guarantees on the data, either expressed or implied, are made.
Transfer Format Name Arc/INFO export
Transfer Format Version Number 7.1.1
Transfer Size 83 MB Arc/Export uncompressed
Ordering Instructions Available for downloading from the LMIC ftp site
Online Linkage Click here to download data. (See Ordering Instructions above for details.) By clicking here, you agree to the notice in "Distribution Liability" above.

Section 7

Metadata Reference Information - - - - - - Go back to top

Metadata Date 10/02/1998
Contact Person Information Susanne Maeder,
Land Management Information Center (LMIC), Minnesota Planning
330 Centennial Building; 658 Cedar Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155
Phone: 651.296.1211
FAX: 651.296.1212
E-mail: clearinghouse@mnplan.state.mn.us
Metadata Standard Name Minnesota Geographic Metadata Guidelines (MGMG)
Metadata Standard Version 1.1
Metadata Standard Online Linkage http://www.lmic.state.mn.us/gc/stds/metadata.htm

This page last updated 10/02/1998.

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