Who Draws Township Maps?


Quick Answer

The U.S. Geological Survey publishes maps of townships, and the agency further divides townships in the Public Land Survey System into 36 sections of 1 square mile each. Cartographers subdivide these sections into quarter sections and quarter-quarter sections. The map of a township in this system covers 36 square miles, or 6 miles per side.

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Full Answer

Surveyors begin plotting township maps from a central point and work north, south, east and west of that point. This central point of a township occurs at the intersection of a baseline and principal meridian. Cartographers identify each township with a township and range designation based on its location. For example, a topographic map that shows "T.2S" means township 2 south, and "R.3E" describes range 3 east based on the starting point of the survey team. Surveyors locate this map by move to the second tier of townships south of a baseline and then three columns east of a principal meridian used to define the 36-square-mile township.

Customers view township maps within a publication called the National Atlas. These township maps become more and more detailed until they reach the quadrangle level. Each quadrangle has a scale of 1 inch on the map equaling 24,000 inches on the ground. Since late 2009, users viewed digital topographic maps on the U.S. Geological Survey website. Customers may also purchase traditional topographic maps that show more precise detail than the online-only versions.

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