Mobile website lets Minnesotans explore landscape in new detail

(Released May 5, 2014)

View and download new elevation data

MnTOPO_example  - SEAN VAUGHN MniT @ DNR DEWR - SE_MN_Color_Terrain_4_noContoursWith detailed elevation data and mapping resources, a new mobile website called MnTOPO gives outdoor enthusiasts and scientists a chance to explore Minnesota’s landscape on desktop PCs, tablets, and smartphones, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced.

“This is a great way to use technology to illustrate the shape of earth’s surface and link people to the outdoors,” said Sean Vaughn, a DNR GIS hydrologist. “We can now give people a mobile way to cross Minnesota’s digital terrain to explore interesting places, understand water movement and navigate recreation lands.”

Under the Minnesota Elevation Mapping Project, high-accuracy elevation data was collected for the state using LiDAR technology. The MnTOPO website makes this data available so users can view topographic information as 3-D terrain and/or contours for all of Minnesota in a seamless panning environment.

“They can choose color aerial photography as a background base map, for example, and then drape contours over the imagery to expose terrain features hidden by vegetation in the imagery,” Vaughn said. “We created this with mobility in mind so that it can be easily accessed while in the field on just about any device using a modern web browser.”

MnTOPO has undergone extensive review since it was first released in late 2013 for testing.

It was developed with two primary audience applications in mind: visual terrain exploration and digital terrain data download. People who use the application will find the ability to peruse Minnesota’s 3-D topographic landscape exciting and beneficial, Vaughn said. Those interested in working directly with the data can download digital elevation models and LiDAR elevation data for their area of interest.

“We are only beginning to realize the value and usefulness that tools like this are providing to the public and scientists alike,” said Jason Moeckel, the inventory, monitoring and analysis section manager for the DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division. “The visual representation of accurate and modern topographic contours combined with aerial photography is extremely powerful for understanding how water moves across the landscape. We can apply that knowledge to help improve Minnesota’s water quality.”

MnTOPO’s mapping system shows landscape features and contours, but it is a general reference only and should not be used in place of a legal survey, or as a sole navigation aid.

This website was funded by the Clean Water Legacy Amendment. A portion of the state’s sales tax is dedicated to the Clean Water Fund, which supports projects and products that help protect, preserve and improve the water quality of Minnesota. Find out more about the DNR projects funded by the Legacy Amendment.  at

Find more information on the Minnesota Elevation Mapping Project and
Minnesota LiDAR data.