A simple, efficient, and practical approach for detecting cloud and shadow areas in satellite imagery and restoring them with clean pixel values has been developed. Cloud and shadow areas are detected using spectral information from the blue, shortwave infrared, and thermal infrared bands of Landsat Thematic Mapper or Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus imagery from two dates (a target image and a reference image). These detected cloud and shadow areas are further refined using an integration process and a false shadow removal process according to the geometric relationship between cloud and shadow. Cloud and shadow filling is based on the concept of the Spectral Similarity Group (SSG), which uses the reference image to find similar alternative pixels in the target image to serve as replacement values for restored areas. Pixels are considered to belong to one SSG if the pixel values from Landsat bands 3, 4, and 5 in the reference image are within the same spectral ranges. This new approach was applied to five Landsat path/rows across different landscapes and seasons with various types of cloud patterns. Results show that almost all of the clouds were captured with minimal commission errors, and shadows were detected reasonably well. Among five test scenes, the lowest producer's accuracy of cloud detection was 93.9% and the lowest user's accuracy was 89%. The overall cloud and shadow detection accuracy ranged from 83.6% to 99.3%. The pixel-filling approach resulted in a new cloud-free image that appears seamless and spatially continuous despite differences in phenology between the target and reference images. Our methods offer a straightforward and robust approach for preparing images for the new 2011 National Land Cover Database production.