Read simple features from file or database, or retrieve layer names and their geometry type(s)

Read PostGIS table directly through DBI and RPostgreSQL interface, converting Well-Know Binary geometries to sfc

st_read(dsn, layer, ...)

# S3 method for character
  query = NA,
  options = NULL,
  quiet = FALSE,
  geometry_column = 1L,
  type = 0,
  promote_to_multi = TRUE,
  stringsAsFactors = sf_stringsAsFactors(),
  int64_as_string = FALSE,
  check_ring_dir = FALSE,
  fid_column_name = character(0),
  drivers = character(0),
  wkt_filter = character(0)

read_sf(..., quiet = TRUE, stringsAsFactors = FALSE, as_tibble = TRUE)

# S3 method for DBIObject
  dsn = NULL,
  layer = NULL,
  query = NULL,
  quiet = TRUE,
  as_tibble = FALSE,
  geometry_column = NULL,



data source name (interpretation varies by driver - for some drivers, dsn is a file name, but may also be a folder, or contain the name and access credentials of a database); in case of GeoJSON, dsn may be the character string holding the geojson data. It can also be an open database connection.


layer name (varies by driver, may be a file name without extension); in case layer is missing, st_read will read the first layer of dsn, give a warning and (unless quiet = TRUE) print a message when there are multiple layers, or give an error if there are no layers in dsn. If dsn is a database connection, then layer can be a table name or a database identifier (see Id). It is also possible to omit layer and rather use the query argument.


parameter(s) passed on to st_as_sf


SQL query to select records; see details


character; driver dependent dataset open options, multiple options supported. For possible values, see the "Open options" section of the GDAL documentation of the corresponding driver, and for an example.


logical; suppress info on name, driver, size and spatial reference, or signaling no or multiple layers


integer or character; in case of multiple geometry fields, which one to take?


integer; ISO number of desired simple feature type; see details. If left zero, and promote_to_multi is TRUE, in case of mixed feature geometry types, conversion to the highest numeric type value found will be attempted. A vector with different values for each geometry column can be given.


logical; in case of a mix of Point and MultiPoint, or of LineString and MultiLineString, or of Polygon and MultiPolygon, convert all to the Multi variety; defaults to TRUE


logical; logical: should character vectors be converted to factors? Default for read_sf or R version >= 4.1.0 is FALSE, for st_read and R version < 4.1.0 equal to default.stringsAsFactors()


logical; if TRUE, Int64 attributes are returned as string; if FALSE, they are returned as double and a warning is given when precision is lost (i.e., values are larger than 2^53).


logical; if TRUE, polygon ring directions are checked and if necessary corrected (when seen from above: exterior ring counter clockwise, holes clockwise)


character; name of column to write feature IDs to; defaults to not doing this


character; limited set of driver short names to be tried (default: try all)


character; WKT representation of a spatial filter (may be used as bounding box, selecting overlapping geometries); see examples


logical; should the returned table be of class tibble or data.frame?


logical; is the WKB of type EWKB? if missing, defaults to TRUE


object of class sf when a layer was successfully read; in case argument layer is missing and data source dsn does not contain a single layer, an object of class sf_layers is returned with the layer names, each with their geometry type(s). Note that the number of layers may also be zero.


for geometry_column, see also

for values for type see, but note that not every target value may lead to successful conversion. The typical conversion from POLYGON (3) to MULTIPOLYGON (6) should work; the other way around (type=3), secondary rings from MULTIPOLYGONS may be dropped without warnings. promote_to_multi is handled on a per-geometry column basis; type may be specified for each geometry column.

Note that stray files in data source directories (such as *.dbf) may lead to spurious errors that accompanying *.shp are missing.

In case of problems reading shapefiles from USB drives on OSX, please see

For query with a character dsn the query text is handed to 'ExecuteSQL' on the GDAL/OGR data set and will result in the creation of a new layer (and layer is ignored). See 'OGRSQL' for details. Please note that the 'FID' special field is driver-dependent, and may be either 0-based (e.g. ESRI Shapefile), 1-based (e.g. MapInfo) or arbitrary (e.g. OSM). Other features of OGRSQL are also likely to be driver dependent. The available layer names may be obtained with st_layers. Care will be required to properly escape the use of some layer names.

read_sf and write_sf are aliases for st_read and st_write, respectively, with some modified default arguments. read_sf and write_sf are quiet by default: they do not print information about the data source. read_sf returns an sf-tibble rather than an sf-data.frame. write_sf delete layers by default: it overwrites existing files without asking or warning.

if table is not given but query is, the spatial reference system (crs) of the table queried is only available in case it has been stored into each geometry record (e.g., by PostGIS, when using EWKB)

The function will automatically find the `geometry` type columns for drivers that support it. For the other drivers, it will try to cast all the character columns, which can be slow for very wide tables.


The use of system.file in examples make sure that examples run regardless where R is installed: typical users will not use system.file but give the file name directly, either with full path or relative to the current working directory (see getwd). "Shapefiles" consist of several files with the same basename that reside in the same directory, only one of them having extension .shp.

See also


nc = st_read(system.file("shape/nc.shp", package="sf"))
#> Reading layer `nc' from data source #> `/private/var/folders/24/8k48jl6d249_n_qfxwsl6xvm0000gn/T/RtmpOavmau/temp_libpath94fd3649a05d/sf/shape/nc.shp' #> using driver `ESRI Shapefile' #> Simple feature collection with 100 features and 14 fields #> Geometry type: MULTIPOLYGON #> Dimension: XY #> Bounding box: xmin: -84.32385 ymin: 33.88199 xmax: -75.45698 ymax: 36.58965 #> Geodetic CRS: NAD27
summary(nc) # note that AREA was computed using Euclidian area on lon/lat degrees
#> AREA PERIMETER CNTY_ CNTY_ID #> Min. :0.0420 Min. :0.999 Min. :1825 Min. :1825 #> 1st Qu.:0.0910 1st Qu.:1.324 1st Qu.:1902 1st Qu.:1902 #> Median :0.1205 Median :1.609 Median :1982 Median :1982 #> Mean :0.1263 Mean :1.673 Mean :1986 Mean :1986 #> 3rd Qu.:0.1542 3rd Qu.:1.859 3rd Qu.:2067 3rd Qu.:2067 #> Max. :0.2410 Max. :3.640 Max. :2241 Max. :2241 #> NAME FIPS FIPSNO CRESS_ID #> Length:100 Length:100 Min. :37001 Min. : 1.00 #> Class :character Class :character 1st Qu.:37050 1st Qu.: 25.75 #> Mode :character Mode :character Median :37100 Median : 50.50 #> Mean :37100 Mean : 50.50 #> 3rd Qu.:37150 3rd Qu.: 75.25 #> Max. :37199 Max. :100.00 #> BIR74 SID74 NWBIR74 BIR79 #> Min. : 248 Min. : 0.00 Min. : 1.0 Min. : 319 #> 1st Qu.: 1077 1st Qu.: 2.00 1st Qu.: 190.0 1st Qu.: 1336 #> Median : 2180 Median : 4.00 Median : 697.5 Median : 2636 #> Mean : 3300 Mean : 6.67 Mean :1050.8 Mean : 4224 #> 3rd Qu.: 3936 3rd Qu.: 8.25 3rd Qu.:1168.5 3rd Qu.: 4889 #> Max. :21588 Max. :44.00 Max. :8027.0 Max. :30757 #> SID79 NWBIR79 geometry #> Min. : 0.00 Min. : 3.0 MULTIPOLYGON :100 #> 1st Qu.: 2.00 1st Qu.: 250.5 epsg:4267 : 0 #> Median : 5.00 Median : 874.5 +proj=long...: 0 #> Mean : 8.36 Mean : 1352.8 #> 3rd Qu.:10.25 3rd Qu.: 1406.8 #> Max. :57.00 Max. :11631.0
## only three fields by select clause ## only two features by where clause nc_sql = st_read(system.file("shape/nc.shp", package="sf"), query = "SELECT NAME, SID74, FIPS FROM \"nc\" WHERE BIR74 > 20000")
#> Reading query `SELECT NAME, SID74, FIPS FROM "nc" WHERE BIR74 > 20000' from data source `/private/var/folders/24/8k48jl6d249_n_qfxwsl6xvm0000gn/T/RtmpOavmau/temp_libpath94fd3649a05d/sf/shape/nc.shp' #> using driver `ESRI Shapefile' #> Simple feature collection with 2 features and 3 fields #> Geometry type: POLYGON #> Dimension: XY #> Bounding box: xmin: -81.06555 ymin: 34.82742 xmax: -78.49929 ymax: 35.50912 #> Geodetic CRS: NAD27
if (FALSE) { library(sp) example(meuse, ask = FALSE, echo = FALSE) try(st_write(st_as_sf(meuse), "PG:dbname=postgis", "meuse", layer_options = "OVERWRITE=true")) try(st_meuse <- st_read("PG:dbname=postgis", "meuse")) if (exists("st_meuse")) summary(st_meuse) } if (FALSE) { ## note that we need special escaping of layer within single quotes (nc.gpkg) ## and that geom needs to be included in the select, otherwise we don't detect it layer <- st_layers(system.file("gpkg/nc.gpkg", package = "sf"))$name[1] nc_gpkg_sql = st_read(system.file("gpkg/nc.gpkg", package = "sf"), query = sprintf("SELECT NAME, SID74, FIPS, geom FROM \"%s\" WHERE BIR74 > 20000", layer)) } # spatial filter, as wkt: wkt = st_as_text(st_geometry(nc[1,])) # filter by (bbox overlaps of) first feature geometry: read_sf(system.file("gpkg/nc.gpkg", package="sf"), wkt_filter = wkt)
#> Simple feature collection with 4 features and 14 fields #> Geometry type: MULTIPOLYGON #> Dimension: XY #> Bounding box: xmin: -81.91116 ymin: 35.98933 xmax: -80.87086 ymax: 36.58965 #> Geodetic CRS: NAD27 #> # A tibble: 4 × 15 #> AREA PERIMETER CNTY_ CNTY_ID NAME FIPS FIPSNO CRESS_ID BIR74 SID74 NWBIR74 #> <dbl> <dbl> <dbl> <dbl> <chr> <chr> <dbl> <int> <dbl> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 0.081 1.29 1880 1880 Watau… 37189 37189 95 1323 1 17 #> 2 0.114 1.44 1825 1825 Ashe 37009 37009 5 1091 1 10 #> 3 0.199 1.98 1874 1874 Wilkes 37193 37193 97 3146 4 200 #> 4 0.061 1.23 1827 1827 Alleg… 37005 37005 3 487 0 10 #> # … with 4 more variables: BIR79 <dbl>, SID79 <dbl>, NWBIR79 <dbl>, #> # geom <MULTIPOLYGON [°]>
# read geojson from string: geojson_txt <- paste("{\"type\":\"MultiPoint\",\"coordinates\":", "[[3.2,4],[3,4.6],[3.8,4.4],[3.5,3.8],[3.4,3.6],[3.9,4.5]]}") x = read_sf(geojson_txt) x
#> Simple feature collection with 1 feature and 0 fields #> Geometry type: MULTIPOINT #> Dimension: XY #> Bounding box: xmin: 3 ymin: 3.6 xmax: 3.9 ymax: 4.6 #> Geodetic CRS: WGS 84 #> # A tibble: 1 × 1 #> geometry #> <MULTIPOINT [°]> #> 1 ((3.2 4), (3 4.6), (3.8 4.4), (3.5 3.8), (3.4 3.6), (3.9 4.5))
if (FALSE) { library(RPostgreSQL) try(conn <- dbConnect(PostgreSQL(), dbname = "postgis")) if (exists("conn") && !inherits(conn, "try-error")) { x = st_read(conn, "meuse", query = "select * from meuse limit 3;") x = st_read(conn, table = "public.meuse") print(st_crs(x)) # SRID resolved by the database, not by GDAL! dbDisconnect(conn) } }