Townships GIS

Township Boundaries

Theoretically, a township is a square tract of land with sides of six miles each, and containing 36 sections of land. Actually this is not the case. Years ago, when the original survey of this state was made by the government engineers, they knew that it was impossible to keep a true north and south direction of township lines, and still keep getting township squares of 36 square miles. As they surveyed toward the north pole, they were constantly running out of land, because the township lines were converging toward the north pole.

You will notice that on the north and on the west of each township there are divisions of land which show odd acreages. In some townships, these odd acreages are called government lots (because they were given a lot number), and at other times left as fractional forties or eighties. It was at the option of the original government surveyors as to whether they would call these odd acreages government lots, or fractional forties and eighties.

The reason for these odd acreages is that the government surveyors adjusted for shortages of land which developed as they went north, by making fractional forties, eighties or government lots out of the land on the west side of a township, and the same for the land on the north side of a township to keep east and west lines running parallel. In other words it was impossible to fit full squares into a circle.

Townships sometimes vary in size from the regularity laid-out townships. Suppose that the light blue line in figure 6 is a river separating two counties. The land north and west of the river could be a township in one county, the land south and east could be a township in another county. Which ever county the land is in, it still retains the same section, township and range numbers for purposes of land descriptions.

View figure 6.

Each township has a township number and also a range number (sometimes more than one of each if the township is oversized, or a combination of more than one township and range).

Government surveying of townships is run from starting lines called base lines and principal meridians. Each township has a township number. This number is the number of rows or tiers of townships that a township is either north or south of the base line. Also each township has a range number. This number is the number of rows or tiers of townships that a township is either east or west of the principal meridian. Every description of land should show the section, township and range it is located in.

View figure 7.

All County Townships

See information about all of the townships of Otter Tail County.

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