Accurate topographic data are critical to restoration science and planning for the Everglades region of South Florida, USA. They are needed to monitor and simulate water level, water depth and hydroperiod and are used in scientific research on hydrologic and biologic processes. Because large wetland environments and data acquisition challenge conventional ground-based and remotely sensed data collection methods, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) adapted a classical data collection instrument to global positioning system (GPS) and geographic information system (GIS) technologies. Data acquired with this instrument were processed using geostatistics to yield sub-water level elevation values with centimetre accuracy (??15 cm). The developed database framework, modelling philosophy and metadata protocol allow for continued, collaborative model revision and expansion, given additional elevation or other ancillary data. ?? 2012 Taylor & Francis.