I need the shapefiles of all river basins polygons of USA. I need these boundaries:

enter image description here

in order to create river basins map in combination with DEM data.

  • 1
    Is this answer useful? opendata.stackexchange.com/a/4505/1511 In particular the NHD link
    – philshem
    Apr 24, 2019 at 16:26
  • Maybe, but I need direct link to data because I really can`t find what I need there. Note that I need boundaries like on the picture
    – user122678
    Apr 24, 2019 at 17:01
  • maybe? you have to do some work here. that data is findable through the answer provided by @philshem did you even try clicking on the water boundary data link in the second paragraph of the link?
    – albert
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:49
  • Possible duplicate of Data for water features by state/province
    – albert
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


Those are the HU-2 (2-digit Hydrologic Units) boundaries from the national Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD). Sometimes you'll see them referred to as HUC-2 instead of HU-2 (HUC = Hydrologic Unit Code). enter image description here

It should be possible to download this data for the entire continental US as a single dataset. However...

It's very easy to get the metadata for this dataset. The metadata is available here, here, here and here. Some of the metadata pages also allow you to download the metadata as an XML file.

It's more difficult to get the actual data. According to the metadata page, you can download the WBD data through the National Map viewer. But as far as I could tell, the national WBD dataset is not actually available through the map viewer right now. I went through the steps to download the national WBD dataset, but nothing was listed on the "data products" page.

enter image description here

The 2-digit Hydrologic Unit boundaries are available separately for each watershed. For example, the Missouri watershed boundary is one single download called WBD_10_HU2_Shape.zip. This file contains:

  • WBDLine, a line layer containing all drainage lines (streams)
  • 8 different levels of Hydrologic unit polygons (WBDHU16, WBDHU14, ..., WBDHU2)
  • NWIS drainage line and area
  • non contributing drainage line and area

Here are direct links to all the 2-digit Hydrologic Units in the United States, in shapefile format. You can re-create the national WBD layer by stitching together the WBDHU2 layer from each zip file. Looking at the image you posted, you may want to include some smaller subwatersheds along the east coast, Gulf coast and in the Rocky Mountains. I don't see any obvious pattern to which watersheds are color-coded separately, so you'll probably have to manually select the ones you want from the different HUC levels. Pro tip: the larger the HUC number, the smaller the watershed, ie HUC-2 watersheds are the largest, and HUC-16 are the smallest.

These are the download links that I got by going through the National Map Viewer. I hope they work for you, but I'm not sure if they're temporary/personal links or permalinks. If they don't work, you'll have to go through the National Map Viewer yourself. Follow the steps illustrated below to find these layers in the National Map Viewer interface.

enter image description here enter image description here

You can also see the various HU layers on ArcGIS.com, including previewing them on a map and linking to them as a MapService.

Note: If anyone wants to edit this question and put the HU-2 layers in numerical order, and/or look up and add the watershed names, that would be great.

UPDATE: I found a direct download source for Watershed Boundary Dataset and Lines for HUC2-12. They're subdivided by HUC-level (HU2, HU4, HU6, etc.) Each file contains the Hydrologic Unit boundaries for the entire nation; you can also download HUC2-12 as one zip file. Thank you USDA National Resources Conservation Service, you really one-upped the USGS this time.

  • this is a very well done answer
    – albert
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:50
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    @albert Thank you. It seemed worth the effort to write all this up, after I went and looked at the NHD link and found that the data was extremely difficult to locate. I really wish USGS would provide data download links on the metadata pages.
    – csk
    Apr 24, 2019 at 19:11
  • I have already tried to do exactly the same thing but as you have described national wide data is not available for download, and also these boundaries are not the same as the obes I have on the picture.
    – user122678
    Apr 24, 2019 at 20:13
  • 1
    What you have in the picture isn't river basin boundaries, it's stream lines. So I had to make some guesses about what data you really wanted. If you could provide more details about what the dataset you're looking for is called, or maybe explain where that map came from, it might be possible to find the data you want.
    – csk
    Apr 24, 2019 at 20:20

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