Long-term sediment deposition and embankment reclamation have formed a special distribution of polders around Dongting Lake in China. The area encompassed by the dataset includes 20 counties around Dongting Lake. The dataset content includes the polder distribution in 2013 and the spatial changes during 1949–1998, 1998–2008, and 2008–2013. The 2013 polder distribu-tion was extracted using object-oriented image classification using remotely sensed images. In-formation about spatial changes in the polders during the three historical periods was extracted from water-conservancy engineering drawings and related materials using automatic vectoriza-tion and the ArcGIS software. The dataset could be used to look for temporal and spatial patterns, explain the process of polder evolution, investigate land use and its changing patterns, and for-mulate corresponding policies for managing polders in the Dongting Lake area.