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Rectangular Government Survey System Map

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Are Townships Divided Further

Introduction to administration of Web Survey System – Part 2

Yes, but first you need to know the dimensions and measurements of a township. Since the lines that create them are six miles apart, they are 24 miles around and include an area of 36 square miles, which is 23,040 acres.

Of course, this still makes up a lot of land, so townships are further divided into sections. There are 36 sections in a township, and each section contains one square mile, which is 640 acres. The sections are number 1 through 36 starting in the NE corner of the section continuing west along the top row. The second row down continues being numbered west to east or left to right. The numbering continues in this manner like a snake, until ending in the far southeast corner with section 36.

Section 16 is located directly in the center of the section and historically was always designated as the school section. It made sense since it was centrally located.

Were not done yet. Sections can be further divided into halves and quarters. You may have math questions on your real estate licensing exam related to this concept.

Base Line And Principal Meridian

The implementation of the system begins with the identification of the reference lines: the east-west line called the Base Line and the north-south line is also known for the name principal meridian. In the survey method, there has to be the creation of an initial point. It will serve as the basis for surveys of government in a specified area under its jurisdiction. Moreover, the astronomical observations will then determine the areas latitude and longitude.

The Base Line in United States Rectangular Survey System meets its principal meridian at the point of origin, or initial point, for the survey of the land. Take for example there is a shared baseline in both Nebraska and Kansas as both states border is at the 40th parallel north. The roads in a lot of communities in the U.S. run along survey Base Lines as well just like in Arkansas, especially in Little Rock, the baseline road follows the baseline used by the Louisiana Purchase surveyors.

How Does Metes And Bounds Differ From The Rectangular Survey System

As we mentioned earlier, two primary survey methods are used in the United States, the Metes and Bounds System, and the Rectangular Survey System.

Metes and bounds were used as the primary survey method before 1785 and were fairly inaccurate, especially before GPS technology. The system uses Metes, which are straight lines connecting two points, and Bounds, which are identifiable aspects of a property. For example, a Bound could be a road, tree, river, or large rock.

A Metes and Bounds survey may read something like commencing from the large apple tree 1 mile to the north, west along the river bed. However, rivers can be moved, and trees can die, so as you can see, this method is wildly inaccurate over time.

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Time Period Of Content

Grant numbers Integer
STR - Section Township Rangeexample - 12 24 28AREA_ATT1     0 = Outside area 102 = Donation land claim 103 = Land grant 104 = Private extension of public land survey 106 = Overlapping land grants 110 = PLSS area 198 = WaterORIG_SURV - unknown0262829NONSEC_ID - Section numbers above 36, mostly grant identifiers8003 = FLEMING GRANT8004 = DELESPINE GRANT8009 = BERNARDO SEGUI8011 = WILLIAM GARVIN8013 = LUCAS CRAYON8014 = JOHN H McINTOSH8016 = ANTELM GAY8017 = GOMEZ8018 = JOHN LOW8019 = JOSEPH WALES027 AMBROSE HULL016 005 ARRENDONDO GRANT009 021 C E McHARDY020 CHARLES SIBBOLD010 DOMINGO ACOSTA030 FORBES PURCHASE023 GEORGE F CLARK028 GERONIMO ALVAREZ007 015 H M GOMEZ008 HANSON024 JANE MURRAY025 JOHN BOLTON014 018 022 JOSEPH GAUNT019 013 006 MOSES E LEVY017 PABLO ROSETTE012 PETER FOUCHARD026 SAMUEL BETTS011 

What Is The Rectangular Survey System

Rectangular Surveys  FamilySearch

The Rectangular Survey System, also known as the Government Survey System or Public Land Survey System, is a method of plotting land boundaries in the United States using a large grid made up of rectangles. The grid is divided into smaller sections known as quadrangles, townships, sections, half-sections, and quarter-sections used to describe property boundaries in most of the United States.

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Recorded Plat Survey System

The lot and block survey system is a method used in the United States and Canada to locate and identify land, particularly for lots in densely populated metropolitan areas, suburban areas, and exurbs. It is sometimes referred to as the recorded plat survey system, or the recorded map survey system.

The Lot and Block System has a map showing lot dimensions approved by the Board of County Commissioners.

For example,Lot _ Block _ of Subdivision __ in the County of ______, State of ______________.

The three legal real estate land descriptions are important information that all real estate agents and brokers must understand to pass their real estate exam and receive their license.

To learn more about these land descriptions, view our Real Estate Principles course, which provides information on ethics of practice, titles to and conveyance of real estate, deeds encumbrances and liens, distinctions between personal and real property, appraisal, finance and regulations, and more.

Written and Published by: VanEd

What Are Legal Land Descriptions

In legal documents, such as a lien, deed, trust deed, mortgage, and sales contract, courts require an exact description of where a piece of land is located. This is not merely the address of the property but is a legal description. There is more than one type of legal description you must know for your exam. The government survey system legal land description method is the subject of this article.

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Information To Be Recorded

Records kept by the surveyors during the execution of the work varied over time. Furthermore, how well individual surveying parties actually met the requirements or recommendations at the time, also varied. The following is a list of the more commonly required landscape and surveying items that were either required or requested be noted, over much of the nineteenth century.

The following table indicates some distance and area conversions in the PLSS:


Which States Use The Rectangular Survey System

Estimating a weighted average CSR2 in Iowa using the USDA NRCS Web Soil Survey

The states that use the rectangular survey system are:Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama, and Florida.

The real estate exam probably wont ask you what states use the Metes and Bounds system or the Rectangular Survey System, but they may ask you which system your state uses.

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What To Know For The Real Estate Exam

For the real estate exam, youll need to know the two primary survey methods. The first is the Metes and Bounds surveythe second is the Rectangular Survey System, also known as the Government Survey System or Public Lands Survey System.

You may be asked to identify sections in the Rectangular Survey System, so remember the order from specific to general. We have Quarter sections, Half sections, township sections, townships, quadrangles, and principal meridians with baselines.

There may also be questions about how much land is in a specific plot or section. Remember, there are 36 square miles in a township, and each section is 1 square mile. 1 Square mile is equal to 640 acres.

For example, how many acres are there if you take the North East ¼ of the South 1/2 of section 3 in township 8 North and range 5 west?

We know that there are 640 acres in one section, and we are taking a 1/4 of a 1/2 section. Simply multiply 640 by ¼ or 0.25, which equals 160, then multiply 160 by 1/2 or 0.5, which equals 80. You have 80 acres in that plot of land, and that is your answer.

Government Survey System Public Land Survey System

After the Revolutionary War ended, the United States Government needed a way to describe lands in the West to insure locating and selling. The system was created by Thomas Jefferson in 1785.

This system created a checkerboard of identical squares using longitude lines and latitude lines .

The creation of the legal description for the Governmental Survey System is based on special longitude and latitude lines called principal meridians and base lines. as starting points.

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A New Version Using December 2018 Data

  • This version has full Montanna data.
  • Many areas in the other states are also more accurate.
  • This version has a more visual interface, which was optimized to explore the dataset.
  • You can drill down by clicking on the land map, but you need to click the calc button to get the latitude and longitude.
  • There are few subdivisions beyond the sections and quarter sections.
  • Some data is missing in this version that is included in the old version.
  • There are various issues with the names on the very small land parcels in several states.

What Is The Government Survey System Land Description

Why The Legal Description Is So Important In Land Surveys

The government survey system is known by a few different names. It is also known as the rectangular survey system and geodetic survey system. Congress created it in 1785 as a more straightforward, faster and more accurate way to identify land. You can think of this system as a gigantic checkerboard, as it has a bunch of intersecting lines that form squares into a grid.

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Are There Any Other Terms Related To The Government Survey System That I Need To Know For My Exam

Of course. Since the earth is not flat like a checkerboard, there needed to be some adjustments made along the way to make sure everything worked out. These are known as correction lines and guide meridians. Every fourth township line is called a correction line, and every fourth range line is called a guide meridian. Guide meridians run true north, and the intersecting correction line is shorter than a township line.

Since nothing is perfect, some sections of land ended up being larger or smaller than they should. These sections are referred to as fractional sections. Areas smaller than full-size sections are known as government lots and are numbered and placed in fractional sections. Just because they are referred to as government lots does not mean the government owns the land they contain.

How Does It Work

The Rectangular Survey System is a method of surveying designed to divide the real property into specified plots. It is considered as one of the most significant subdividing of the United States mainland. This system is also needed to divide all of the lands in the public domain which is possessed by the US federal government to benefit the American citizens.

Many plans have been made on how to subdivide the public domain lands. But the final plan included subdivision of the lands into townships, then into sections and further into aliquot parts.

Prior to the land ordinance of 1785 and the Rectangular Survey System, the state lands state which would be the 13 colonies, surveyed their land with meets and bound system. Just imagine you are to layout an area of land based on the geography, the meets, and bound system will show you the visible marks of the land.

It is the lands boundary lines that also have terminal points and angles. Also, the meets and bounds system is used to describe land by listing the compass directions and distances of the boundaries.

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Wabasha County Survey Information

PLSS The Public Land Survey System is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States. The PLSS typically divides land into 6-mile-square townships. Townships are subdivided into 36 one-mile- square sections. Sections can be further subdivided into quarter sections, quarter-quarter sections, or irregular government lots. Normally, a permanent monument, or marker, is placed at each section corner. Monuments are also placed at quarter-section corners and at other important points, such as the corners of government lots.

Originally proposed by Thomas Jefferson, the PLSS began shortly after the Revolutionary War, when the Federal government became responsible for large areas west of the thirteen original colonies. The rectangular survey system was enacted by the Land Ordinance Act of 1785. Now known as the Public Land Survey System, this system divided the western lands into grid-shaped townships and sections. Surveyed land was sold by the government, providing important revenue for the cash-starved nation. Previous to the Public Land Survey System, land was surveyed using a confusing landmark-based system called metes and bounds.

The earliest land surveys in Minnesota were conducted under the jurisdiction of the Surveyor General of Iowa and Wisconsin, headquartered in Dubuque, Iowa. These surveys, completed between 1848 and May 1857 were primarily on land located between the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers or in the southeastern corner of Minnesota.

Guide Meridians And Standard Parallels

Introduction to the Web Survey System

The earths curvature led to the creation of additional lines called Guide Meridians that is perpendicular to the baseline. It is extended north from the Base Line and runs at 24 miles east and west from the principal meridian. Lines that are parallel to the Base Line are called the standard parallels which run at 24-mile intervals north and south of the Base Line. Standard Parallels are also called as correction lines for the meridians to compensate for the curvature of the earth. The line intersections have established a large grid that controls the subdivision of grids to smaller ones.

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Public Land Survey System

The Public Land Survey System is the surveying method developed and used in the United States to plat, or divide, real property for sale and settling. Also known as the Rectangular Survey System, it was created by the Land Ordinance of 1785 to survey land ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, following the end of the American Revolution. Beginning with the Seven Ranges in present-day Ohio, the PLSS has been used as the primary survey method in the United States. Following the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, the Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory platted lands in the Northwest Territory. The Surveyor General was later merged with the General Land Office, which later became a part of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management . Today, the BLM controls the survey, sale, and settling of lands acquired by the United States.

How Does The Rectangular Survey System Work

As mentioned above, basically you can think of the US as a huge checkerboard, with vertical and horizontal lines splitting it up. You need to know what these lines are called and how they intersect for your real estate license exam.

The first set of lines are called the principal meridians and run north and south. The second set of lines are called baselines and run east and west. In the entire nation, there are only 36 principal meridians. Each one is distinguished by a different name and number and has an intersecting baseline. The principal meridians are not located in equal distances from one another. Each piece of land is measured only from one meridian, and it may not be the one closest in proximity to the piece of land.

In addition to the principal meridians and baselines, the land is further divided by range lines, which run north and south. Range lines are equally located six miles apart, and the columns of land they create are known as ranges. Township lines run east and west and are also found six miles apart. The strips of land they form are known as township tiers.

The squares created by range and township lines are known as townships and are identified by their location from the baseline and principal meridian lines.

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How Do You Use The Rectangular Survey System

The rectangular survey system may just be a giant grid covering the United States, but understanding how it is used can seem a little complex, so stick with us while we cover the basic definitions.

Principal Meridians

The largest grid comprises of two types of lines, principal meridians, and baselines. Principal meridians run perpendicular to the earths equator, north to south. Baselines run parallel to the earths equator, from east to west. When identifying property locations, you will always reference which principal meridian it is located near. The land is then further divided into quadrangles.


Guide meridians and standard parallels form quadrangles. Guide meridians run north to south, parallel with principal meridians. Standard parallels run east to west along with the baseline. The lines are spaced 24 miles apart, creating squares that are around 576 square miles.

Its worth noting quadrangles are not used when identifying land with the rectangular survey method, only the principal meridians, baselines, and townships and sections.


All township locations are defined by referencing how from they are from the principal meridian and baseline. For example, you would say it is in township 3 north, range 5 east to identify a property. That means it is 3 townships north of the baseline and 5 townships east of the principal meridian.


Putting it Together

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