Walt Wilson Real Estate        











Let me help you buy a new home, land, ranch or commercial      property or I'll be happy to discuss the sale
of your existing
property. "I Can Make You Money".


This page & the continuing pages are designed to educate sellers, buyers, and any viewer about surveys and the locating of property, especially LAND in remote areas.
These pages are still under construction.   




Email  walt@waltwilson.com



City lots and major subdivisions are pretty much surveyed and all corner markers are in place or were in place at one time.
The majority of lacking or missing markers come about out in the rural areas. As much of the dividing of lands took place prior to the Subdivision Map Act of 1972, which mandated that all properties be surveyed and a map recorded and further that access was required. Prior to the Map Act some individuals sold a property without knowing where the corners were and did not provide access to the property. When the unsuspecting soul attempted to build on that land later on or attempted to get to the property, they found that access had not been provided and their property was now Land-Locked, making the property un-buildable and in some cases worthless. With the courts across the United States jammed with litigation over access and buyers being sold worthless property, the Counties and Cities along with help from Congress worked out the Subdivision Map Act.
These pages are still under construction.  


Thomas Jefferson, a man who not only signed the Declaration Of Independence, also was the designer of the Rectangular Survey System used in America today. Thomas devised the rectangular system in 1784.  The system is designed around the "Township" which is a 36 miles square consisting of 36 sections numbered 1 through 36. Each section is 1 mile square.
 In 1805 the US Government adopted this system and it has been used every since. As noted and since the section is square and everyone knows you cannot fill a round object (earth) with squares as somewhere a square has to be shortened or rounded to make the perfect fit. In order to compensate for the irregular discrepancies; correctional sections had to be established.

Sections 1 through 6 & 7 & 18, 19, 30 & 31 were adjusted to make the fit into our round world. So do not be alarmed or concerned when you hear a real estate agent or surveyor say that a section is 800 acres or 530 acres. Most people, including many real estate agents have the understanding that all sections are 640 acres. Well that is true, except for the correction sections. Have you ever looked at a Topographical Map and seen  a long narrow section or a very small section, well these were the correctional sections for that Township line. A quick reference is that in the area of Foresthill, Ca there is a section of 247 acres and a section of 1143 acres.


So if you hear someone say they got five 160 acre 1/4 sections out of a section; then this is one of the correctional sections. I have had several people tell me I did not know what I was talking about when I told them the section I was trying to sell to them had 800 acres. I was told that any dummy knows there are only 640 acres in a section, hence this is why I wanted to provide many of this web page's viewers with more knowledge on the survey system.

Most of my discussion is on rural or wilderness properties which I refer to as the "In The Boonies"

The first step in locating any property is obtaining the Assessor's Parcel Map. This map shows the shape of the subject parcel and you will find other valuable information on this map. For example, you will find the acreage written within the boundary lines, the shape of the parcel and how it lies with respect to any roads, creeks, rivers and the adjoining parcels. Sometimes the subject parcel may be a known distance from an already improved or locatable parcel, so this helps in shortening the location of possibly one known corner from which it is possible to locate another or all of the corners.

The further In The Boonies you go the more likely it gets more difficult in locating parcels as there are no improved properties about and little surveying has been done in the area. So the Assessor's Parcel map comes into play here. Try and reference any land marks shown on the map and look on the page for any surveys that have been recorded on that map. For instance if a survey is shown it will show as follows: ROS 9-16, for record of survey recorded in survey book 9 page 16, or PM 11-237, for parcel map recorded in book 11- page 237, or MOR BK 1 PG 68.
These survey maps can be obtained from the same place you get the Assessor's Parcel Maps. Some Tax Assessor's Offices will charge you for each map. However, if you go to any Title Company they generally provide these maps free.

"Getting out into the Boonies"
Can be healthy and possibly rewarding with the find of GOLD NUGGETS such as shown
on this page.

On the Top of the Map there is other beneficial information:

The Section, Township, Range and the place the survey was taken from or referenced, such as

Section 18, T 14 N, R 10 E, M.D.B.&M.
The Assessor's Map has other info. like the County the parcel is situated in, and any dimensions of the subject parcel and or an adjacent parcel. Also there may be notations as to if the section corners are on the subject parcel or another parcel close by. If there are dimensions, then it makes the job easier as you need to find a reference point or corner and them measure or step off that distance. If no corners were ever set then you can only approximate the marker location unless you have a surveyor assist or do the location for you.

However, if you can determine much of the site work and provide the surveyor with all the pertinent paper work, then your costs are much less, as surveyors of to day (2004) charge from $50 to $195 per hour.
So now you have these maps and have studied all there is about the map's content. Now you can buy or download a Topographical Map (Topo). This map is the life saver, as it is shows the section, Township and Range.

You now take the information from the Assessor's Map and overlay it onto the Topo. The Topo shows elevation contour lines, streams, rivers, roads, trails and much more.

The most important thing to remember about any map is that the map has a direction printed on it somewhere. That is generally in the top right hand corner. The Topo may not have a North Direction as all maps of this nature are assumed North as referenced to the North Pole. This Topo map has many, many, useful pieces of Info. It gives the shape of the section, it shows which sections are correctional sections by only the noticeable difference in size.
On the Top, Bottom and each Side it gives the name of the map. Like Crow Canyon, Westville, Michigan Bluff, Grass Valley, as these are known towns, mining communities and etc. The names at the Top Right and the Bottom Right give the name of the subject map.  It also shows how to measure the distance on the bottom of the page, for example the scale is shown and for our use we use the Westville Map and it gives the scale  1:24 000. This means that any unit can be used to measure this map's sections or parts thereof. 1:24 000 means that if we want to measure in feet we divide the 24 000 by 12 inches which = 1 foot. So 24000 / 12 = 2,000 which means 1 inch on your ruler = 2,000 feet on the map.
Now if you have a perfectly square section it will measure 2 5/8 inches on your ruler, remember a section is one mile square or 5,280 feet.

A little help here: so take the ruler and measure the top of section 18 and you get 2 5/8 in. Most rulers have a 1/6 increment and that is an easier dimension to use on Topos. Now break up 2 5/8 into 1/16 ths. and you should get 16 per inch, so 2 inches is 32 1/6 ths. and 5/8 inch is 10 1/16 ths. so add those and you get 42 1/16 ths. per mile.
 This is very useful as now we know what the scale is for any dimension you want to measure.

So if your parcel is 320 acres and is the top half of section 24, you measure across the top of that section and find it is 42 1/16ths so you know that is one mile, so the height of the parcel has to be one half that dimension, which is 21-1/16ths.
But what if your parcel was 280 acres and it was the top half of section 24. You know that the top line is 42 1/16ths. or one mile, so now you have to figure out how many 1/16 you need to measure to get to the 280 acres.
One mile = 's 5,280 feet / 42 = 's 125.7 feet per 1/6 th. inch.
You can use Algebra or simply use the area which is 5,280 ft. x 5,280 ft. = 27,878,400 divided by 280 acres =
99,565.714 divided by 42 = 2,370 feet / 125 ft per 1/16th. = 18.96 or 19 1/16ths.
So measure down both sides of the Topo map 1 9 -16ths and this is the layout of the 280 acres.

Now you are ready to go into the Boonies and start your search.
But first we need some more information: like a compass and how to use it. You will notice on the bottom of the Topo there is a UTM Grid and a Magnetic North. This tells you that the Declination from True North to the Magnetic North is a certain Degree. My Map shows 17 Degrees East of True North so we set our Declination on the adjustable Compass to 17 Degrees East. Watch which side of true north the declination is pointing. If it points East then adjust the compass accordingly. All the western States are going to be an East setting.

When you get into the Boonies you need to start watching for K TAGS.
K Tags are little placards placed, if you are lucky, along the roads or trails so that a surveyor or knowledgeable person can determine  from the information on this placard the location of Section Corners, 1/4 corners and 1/16 corners.
K Tags are generally yellow and have a township drawn on it with the sections numbered. Data is scratched on the metal plate with a scribe or knife giving the Township, Range and distance and direction to the marker.

So this little tag is very helpful. Take out your Topo Map and walk to the K Tag and start verifying your information.
First you will find a nail driven into the section of question. You may find that you are three or four sections off, so you have to continue. However, lets say we have found the Correct K Tag and it is our section 18 Tag.

The surveyor has placed the nail one half way down the right side of section 18 , which is also the left side of section 17.
So half way down the section line is the East 1/4 corner. Now keep reading and you will see the scribed data saying.
The 1/4 is 230 feet S 49' 24" which is go south 230 feet at the compass bearing of South 49 degrees and 24 minutes.
 You will not be able to set the compass that close so you will shoot for 49 & 1/2 degree or just 49 degrees and set up your compass to some reference point a good distance away, like trees, rocks and etc. Start walking pacing off the distance. A normal step for a average height person is 3 feet for each step taken. (practice this with a 50 foot tape until you get down your average distance for 50 feet and 100 feet).
Do not confuse a step with a pace. You will hear that someone paced off the measurement of 230 or 60 paces.
If you do not know whom you are working with question their knowledge of step vs. pace.
A pace is not a step, at least from those Foresters and Surveyors who taught me Forestry. It is "the distance that either the right or left foot hits the ground so it is every other step or whenever your right foot hits the ground. So a surveyor, Forester, or any individual who knows land or Forest measurements knows the exact distance for his step and his pace. (Webster's Dictionary  says they are the same).
Pacing saves counting as with good practice a person can mentally tally each time the right foot hits the ground, even as he is talking with a companion or co-worker in the field. I Cannot, and have to recount sometimes, but what I have done is to count the pace or step to a known obstacle and remember that so if you have to restart, it is only a short distance. Or you can carry a clicker/counter and click every time for your step or pace.

Now when you reach the 1/4 corner it is usually a metal pipe with a 2 inch hub on top with the data stamped into it saying: E 1/4 and the number 18 and 17 with a line vertically between the numbers. E 1/4  18/17.

 1/16th corners are the corners of a 40 ac parcel. There are 16 *** 40 acre parcels in a Std Section. 
  The rough sketch below shows the 1/16th corner numbering. Looking at the East 1/16th of section 8 shows that it is on the dividing line of sect 5 & 8 & is East of the N 1/4 of section 8. The North 1/4 of Section 8 is also the South 1/4 corner of Section 5...
                    There are 160 acres in a Std 1/4 Section & 40 acres in a 1/4 of a 1/4 section. The 1/4 of a 1/4 Section will be 1,320 feet x 1,320 feet. If you notice several 35 or 38 ac parcels then you may not be working with a Std Section.     Now you got it.

Sectional Breakdown is described as follows: A deed may read the property is the SW 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of Section 6.
So "you read the description backwards": Sect. 6, so put your pencil in the very center, then read the next: SE 1/4,
so go to the SE 1/4, then read the next part: the SW 1/4. Your are now in the center of the SW 1/4 of the SE 1/4.
Where are you? Well you are dead center of the four 10 acre parcels in the SE 1/4. Lets try for the far right and bottom 5 acre parcel. The Deed will read: the S 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of Sect. 6.
Sometimes the words of the do not appear, So it will be S 1/2, NW 1/4, SE 1/4, SE 1/4 of Sect 6.














                   The Township shows 36 sections and the numbering sequence.
                             A normal Township consists of 23,040 acres.