Wabasha County Survey Information

PLSS (Public Land Survey System)

The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) 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.

The surveys, also known as GLO (General Land Office) Maps, can be viewed and downloaded here. Several agencies are also in the process of scanning and publishing the GLO field notes and publishing them online. For more information, please visit: http://www.mngeo.state.mn.us/chouse/GLO/fieldnotes/index.html

Wabasha County Remonumentation Project
Marcus Johnson, Wabasha County Surveyor, has been working to locate and re-establish PLSS monuments that have been lost or destroyed. He's also been collecting coordinate values for each of the PLSS monuments throughout Wabasha County. Mr. Johnson and his company, Johnson & Scofield, Inc., have been contracted by Wabasha County since around 2003 to complete this time-consuming project. As of January 2021, the project is roughly 95% complete, with the estimated completion date within the next year or two. 

Click here to see a map of the PLSS monuments that have been re-established and/or have coordinate values.

PLSS Certificates of Search/Location
All available Certificates of Search/Location have been scanned into PDF documents are now available online. Please note that many of these files are quite large (most are between 5 and 10 MB) and may take some time to view and/or download.

The most current version of Adobe Acrobat is highly recommended to view these documents. You may download the most current version of Adobe Acrobat Reader at http://get.adobe.com/reader/.

The PLSS Certificates are organized by congressional township. Click on the appropriate township link from the list to the right of the map below to download the PDF file containing all PLSS certificates for that township. Alternately, right click on a link, and click “Save target as…” to download the PDF file to your PC.


COL Updates

Click here for more information on the PLSS System

For any questions, please contact sgertken@co.wabasha.mn.us