How to use OGC Web Feature Services (WFS) in ArcGIS

The base URL for this service is the same as for the WMS service. Copy the base WMS URL (up to and including the "?") from the website:
Click this screen-shot to view it full size in a new window
Web page on showing geologic map of Delaware, with the URL of the WMS circled
Open ArcCatalog
  1. Click "Add Interoperability Connection" under "Interoperability Connections" in the table of contents (If you don't see this, you may need an administrator to add the "Interoperability Extension").
  2. Click the square "..." button to the right of "Format"
    Click this screen-shot to view it full size in a new window
  3. Click once to highlight "WFS", and click "OK".
    Click this screen-shot to view it full size in a new window
  4. Paste the same URL you used in the previous step into the "Dataset" box.
  5. Click the "Parameters" button in the "Interoperability Connection" window:
  6. Click the "..." button next to "Feature Types" (this might be labeled "Table List", depending on what version of ArcGIS Desktop you have):
    Click this screen-shot to view it full size in a new window
  7. Click the check box next to all layers you are interested in, and then click "OK".
  8. Important - Please read the note near the end of these instructions to determine if you should enter a value into the "Numeric Identifier Attribute" box. If you decide to use a value, write objectid.
  9. Click "OK" in the "WFS Parameters" window, and then click "OK" in the "Interoperability Connection" window.
  10. Now you can drill down to view or add this connection to an ArcMap session.

A note about ArcGIS, WFS, and the "Numeric Identifier Attribute"

ArcGIS handles WFS in either of two different ways, depending on whether you entered a value in the field "Numeric Identifier Attribute" (see #8 in the screen shot above):
If you leave "Numeric Identifier Attribute" blank:
The first time you connect to the service, ArcGIS Desktop will cache the whole dataset to your local hard drive. ArcGIS will update the cache every 24 hours. Because the data are cached locally, ArcGIS can display them quickly. But the entire data set will be downloaded even if you are only interested in a small portion of the data. For large databases, this initial download may take an unacceptably long time.
If you enter a value in "Numeric Identifier Attribute":
ArcGIS will use the WFS dynamically, transferring the data for every record via the Internet every time your viewing extent changes. ArcGIS will only request features that lie within the current viewing extent. If used correctly, it is possible to view and download small geographic areas of large datasets efficiently. Here is how this may be helpful to you:
  • Open a new ArcMap session and add some data (not through WFS) to show enough geographic context for you to zoom into a small area of particular interest to you. Zoom in to this area.
  • Now add the data from the WFS.
  • Even if your WFS extracts data from a large database, you can navigate quickly because ArcMap will only request the data that is within your viewing extent.
The downside to dynamic WFS is that this method may be too slow when viewing a larger geographic extent; if your view extent is small, dynamic WFS works well, but as you zoom out, it may become too slow because many more features must be requested from the remote data server every time your view extent changes.