Wetland Finder User Guide

The Basics

Getting started

  • Access the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) Wetland Finder using a web browser. The application is optimized for use in Firefox or Chrome. Performance in Internet Explorer or Safari may be unpredictable.
  • View the data disclaimer and then begin exploring updated NWI data.
  • The default view is statewide but users can zoom in, search for a location, and click on the map to identify wetland resources.
  • Clicking on a wetland polygon will display an ‘NWI Attributes’ information box. The box will contain basic information about the wetland polygon selected as well as links to Wetland Regulatory Contacts at the Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Department of Natural Resources.
  • If the area clicked borders multiple wetland polygons, the number will be indicated at the top of the NWI Attributes box and users can cycle through the identified features using the next/previous arrows.

Screen shot of NWI Attributes box when multiple features are selected

Map Navigation

Screen capture of Wetland Finder with tools identified and numbered for map key reference

Map Key

1. Zoom

  • Click the + and - buttons to zoom into and out of the map, or use your mouse wheel. Click and drag to pan. State outline will zoom to full extent of Minnesota. Circle icon will zoom to your current location, most useful for mobile use.

2. Background Layers

  • Change the background layer by clicking on the control. There are four different background layers: street map, hillshade terrain relief, and two aerial imagery layers.

3. Map Data Layers

  • Click on the layers icon to open a side-panel box to display the legend or to change the map
  • Four different thematic classifications of the NWI data:
    1. Cowardin: The Cowardin system is the primary classification system used by the National Wetland Inventory to describe wetlands and ecologically related deep water habitats. It is a hierarchical classification organized into ecological system, classes, and subclasses. The class and subclass levels are primarily based on plant community or substrate. Beyond this, the system also provides information on water regime and a variety of other special cases. 
    2. Circular 39: The classification system known as Circular 39 is an older classification system developed primarily for the inventory and classification of waterfowl habitat (Shaw and Fredine 1956). Wetlands are classified based on the frequency and depth of inundation as well as vegetation community. This classification system has 20 different wetland types, of which eight (8) are present in Minnesota.
    3. Simplified Hydrogeomorphic: This system classifies wetlands not based on their plant communities, but rather based on their geomorphic setting (i.e. landscape position), water source, and hydrodynamics.
    4. Simplified Plant Community: This classification system is based on the Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin (Eggers & Reed 2011). Some of the distinctions between these plant community classes are difficult to reliably assess using aerial imagery data; therefore, for the NWI we have reduced the simplified this system to nine vegetated classes and one non-vegetated class.
  • Slider bar to adjust opacity of NWI data from zero to 100% opaque.
  • Public Waters Inventory data layer: This layer can be toggled on or off.

4. Search

  • Click the search icon to open a side-panel box. Use the search tool to quickly find an area on the map by location name, address or public land survey information.

5. Print Map

  • Click to generate a printable view of your wetland map. Be sure to allow pop-ups on this page to view the pdf. If you do not see your map, look for a pop-up blocker warning and click to enable pop-ups:
    Screen capture of a internet browser window with an icon highlighted, identifying a blocked pop-up

6. Help

  • Access to the Wetland Finder Application User Guide.


If you have questions about using this application, contact Wetland Mapping Staff

Back to top