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Andrew Alden

Townships, Ranges and 1/4-1/4-1/4 Sections

By June 19, 2013

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township section divisionsWhy are so many topographic maps covered with spidery red grids and mysterious numbers and codes like "T21W"? They're part of the arcane, historic and very handy public land grid, surveyed by the U.S. government for more than 200 years. I've prepared a feature that explains the system, including the boustrophedonic numbering scheme for township sections, and——but maybe I'm getting ahead of you. Just see for yourself.
Section divisions — Geology Guide image

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June 19, 2013 at 11:01 pm
(1) Howard says:

We use a similar system in western Canada, but thankfully ours is much easier to learn. Townships are all numbered northward from the 49th parallel, and ranges westward from equally-spaced (4 degrees) meridians. Our sections are subdivided into 16 squares (“Legal Subdivisions” or “Lsds”). These are equivalent to your “1/4 of 1/4″. If we need to go finer than that (rarely, except when locating oil & gas wells in some areas), the Lsds can be divided into 4 (lettered “a” through “d”) and each of these can be divided into 4 again (numbered 1 through 4).

Numbering and lettering always starts in the SE corner, using the same boustrophedonic scheme (thanks, I learned a new word–we usually just call it “serpentine fashion”) as in the US.

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