The Public Land Survey System
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What Is The Public Land Survey System:

Adopted by Congress on May 7, 1785, to facilitate the colonization of the Northwest Territory (the present day states of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota and Ohio), the public land survey system is a grid of survey markers that criss-cross the majority of the states with its "Point of Beginning" defined as a point located on the Ohio and Pennsylvania border near the town of East Liverpool, Ohio. Thomas Jefferson initially proposed dividing the Northwest Terrority into square mile "Sections" to generate much needed cash to pay off the young country's debt. As part of a compromise between the individual states and the National Government, the National Government would assume the states's financial obligations of fighting the Revolutionary War in exchange for the states's claims over the Ohio River Valley.

With the purchase of Louisiana from France in the 1800's, the country was faced with the daunting task of surveying the new lands. The United States extended the public land surveying systems, which worked so well in the Ohio River Valley, to divide the country into 36 square mile Townships associated with a baseline and a principal meridian. Each Township is further divided into square mile sections, and each section is further divided into fractional pieces. Melissa Calhoun provides a detail example of finding a tract of land in the public land survey system.

Today, a surveyor will use the section lines and section corners of the public land survey system as a "Basis of Bearing" for his survey, and, if possible, to place a tie from the parcel to a monument located on the public land survey system. According to Colorado State Law, if a surveyor finds a public land survey corner that has been obliterated, he is required to reestablish the monument according to Bureau of Land Managment requirements and file a monument record with the Colorado State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. The public land survey system and its monuments provide the backbone for all surveys within Colorado.

More Information:

Gamba & Associates, Inc.
Consulting Engineers & Land Surveyors

Tel: 970/945-2550 Fax: 970/945-1410 www.gambaengineering.com
113 Ninth Street, Suite 214 P.O. Box 1458 Glenwood Springs, Colorado 81602
Send your questions and comments to gamba@gambaengineering.com.
Last Modification: April 20 2005