Township, Range, and Section (TRS) Boundaries, Minnesota

This page last updated: 02/19/2016
Metadata created using Minnesota Geographic Metadata Guidelines

Go to Section:
1. Overview
2. Data Quality
3. Data Organization
4. Coordinate System
5. Attributes
6. Distribution - Get Data
7. Metadata Reference

Section 1 Overview
Originator Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo)
Title Township, Range, and Section (TRS) Boundaries, Minnesota
Abstract The TRS digital data set represents the Township, Range, and Section boundaries of the state. Beginning in the late 1840s, the federal government began surveying Minnesota as part of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). The resulting network of land survey lines divided the state into townships, ranges, sections, quarter sections, quarter-quarter sections and government lots, and laid the groundwork for contemporary land ownership patterns.

The township, range and section boundaries were digitized at MnGeo (formerly known as the Land Management Information Center - LMIC) from stable base mylars of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 30-minute latitude by 60-minute longitude map series (1:100,000-scale). All survey lines were extended across water bodies despite the fact that U.S. Geological Survey base maps depict them only on land. This addition allows all sections and townships to be represented as closed areas (polygons) ensuring that township and range location can be determined for any point in the state. It also means that the data set is not affected if lake levels change over time.
Purpose Many irregularities occur when the theory of the PLSS is applied to land surveys on the ground. However, the PLSS acts today as the structure around which all legal descriptions of land parcels in Minnesota are based. It is, therefore, an important framework for most geographic investigations that require information about land ownership. PLSS information is intended to be used for regional studies conducted at the county or multi-county level. The section lines are not meant to be used as legal records.
Time Period of Content Date
Currentness Reference The source for this data set is the USGS 30-minute latitude by 60-minute longitude map series (1:100,000-scale). The following list identifies each of the 71 Minnesota maps in the series by its published map name and the date of map publication. The publication dates range between 1976 and 1994:

Ada 1984, Aitkin 1994, Albert Lea 1985, Angle Inlet 1985, Anoka 1985, Austin 1985, Basswood Lake 1977, Battle Lake 1986, Baudette 1976, Bigfork 1976, Blackduck 1978, Brainerd 1986, Brookings 1985, Brule Narrows 1978, Cass Lake 1977, Cavalier 1985, Clear Lake 1985, Crane Lake 1978, Crookston 1984, Detroit Lakes 1986, Duluth 1980, Ely 1994, Fairmont 1985, Fargo 1985, Faribault 1985, Fosston 1985, Glencoe 1986, Grafton 1985, Grand Forks 1985, Grand Marais 1977, Grand Portage 1985, Grantsburg 1985, Grygla 1977, Hallock 1985, Hastings 1985, Hibbing 1978, International Falls 1978, La Crosse 1990, Lake Itasca 1985, Lake Minnewaska 1986, Litchfield 1986, Littlefork 1978, Milbank 1985, Mille Lacs Lake 1985, Montevideo 1986, Mora 1991, New Ulm 1986, Oak Island 1985, Outer Island 1990, Pigeon Point 1985, Pine River 1976, Pokegama Lake 1992, Port Wing 1980, Rochester 1985, Roseau 1976, Saganaga Lake 1976, Saint Paul 1985, Sandstone 1980, Sioux Falls 1985, St. Cloud 1986, Stillwater 1985, Thief River Falls 1985, Tracy 1986, Two Harbors 1976, Upper Red Lake 1978, Vermillion Lake 1994, Wahpeton 1985, Wheaton 1985, Willmar 1986, Winona 1985, Worthington 1985.
Progress Complete
Maintenance and Update Frequency As needed
Spatial Extent of Data State of Minnesota
Bounding Coordinates -97.5
Place Keywords Minnesota, MN
Theme Keywords planningCadastre, boundaries, Public Land Survey System, PLSS, Public Land Survey, PLS, State Boundary, County Boundaries, Township Boundaries, Section Boundaries, TRS
Theme Keyword Thesaurus ISO 19115 Topic Category
Access Constraints None
Use Constraints Redistribution conditions: In obtaining this data from MnGeo, it is understood that you and/or your organization have the right to use it for any purpose. If you modify it, you are encouraged to apply responsible best practices by documenting those changes in a metadata record. If you transmit or provide the data to another user, it is your responsibility to provide appropriate content, limitation, warranty and liability information as you see fit.
Contact Person Information Norman Anderson, Senior Research Analyst
Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo)
658 Cedar Street, Room 300
St. Paul, MN  55155
Phone: 651-201-2483
Browse Graphic Click to view a data sample.
Sample of T34 R25W, showing county, township and range, and section boundaries
Associated Data Sets 1. Section level data sets:

a. Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) BaseMap
This interactive web map includes Public Land Survey (PLS) boundaries along with Transportation, Water and Imagery layers. See:

b. SECTIC-24K: Section Corner Database
SECTIC-24K is a digital file of the PLS section corners of Minnesota from the U.S. Geological Survey's 1:24,000-scale quadrangle maps. Also included are software utilities that: 1. provide user-specified section corner extraction from the SECTIC-24K database by county, quadrangle or township, 2. convert among PLSS, UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) and latitude/longitude coordinates, and between NAD27 and NAD83 datum values, and 3. create user-defined output files in dBASE format. See:

2. Quarter-quarter section level data set:

a. Control Point Generated PLS
This 1:24,000-scale quarter-quarter section and government lot data set was constructed using section corner coordinates from the Control Point Inventory as well as information from the original General Land Office surveyors' notes and plat maps. Note: the PLS lines do not cross water bodies. See

Section 2 Data Quality
Attribute Accuracy All township and range numbers and sample section identifiers were plotted at a 1:100,000-scale to test for proper label assignments. All codes were checked for consistency across sheets by dissolving polygons by 1:100,000-scale sheet and by county. Dissolves were reviewed for miscoding and then the miscodes were corrected after reviewing the surrounding sections. Frequencies were run on all items in the statewide data set to make sure that all values were within their proper range (e.g., all section numbers were between 1 and 36).
Logical Consistency Data have been topologically structured and verified.
Completeness Township, range, and section areas are complete statewide.
Horizontal Positional Accuracy The USGS National Mapping Division's Mid-Continent Mapping Center estimated the horizontal positional accuracy to be .007 inch on the map (within 58 feet on the ground). USGS tested township, range and section lines for two files, Anoka and Battle Lake, in August of 1993. The following evaluation was submitted to MnGeo on September 1, 1993 in a letter from Mapping Center Chief Merle E. Southern: 'The positional accuracy of the Minnesota LMIC [now MnGeo] PLSS data evaluated met most of our recently adopted acceptance/rejection criteria. Tests of three thirty-minute segments all showed standard errors for x and y to be 5-mils [0.005 inch] or less. Tracking test on two segments were generally acceptable -- one line was encountered that was 12-mils off. No deviations of more than 11-mils are allowed. Shaping of line work was acceptable.'
Vertical Positional Accuracy Not applicable
Lineage The TRS data set was developed at MnGeo as part of the 1992 Control Point Inventory program funded by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources - - see 'Associated Datasets' for more information on the program. MnGeo used the following procedure:

1. Section lines were digitized from USGS 1:100,000 stable base mylar maps for the 71 30-by-60-minute quadrangles that cover the state of Minnesota. Maps were registered using the 30' x 60' quadrangle corners. The Root Mean Square (RMS) error was less than .004 using the tolerance command with a tic match of 6 meters. Maps are all in the NAD27 datum.

2. Checkplots were made at a scale of 1:100,000. Lines were reviewed using visual editing to ensure that the checkplot and mylar lines were within a line width of each other.

3. Each section polygon was labeled with its county, township, range, direction (east or west), and section (CTRS) identification.

4. Another 1:100,000-scale checkplot was made and the CTRS polygon codes were reviewed and corrected as needed.

5. Section corner tics were added by snapping the 1:24,000-scale tics from the Control Point Inventory to the intersection of the TRS digitized section lines.

6. A final 1:100,000-scale color plot was produced and reviewed, and corrections were made as needed.

7. Several statewide files were created from the 30' x 60' tiles by dissolving on each of the CTRS items in succession. The resulting files contained CTRS, CTR (County, Township and Range), county boundaries, and state boundary. The statewide files were reviewed for errors during the dissolve process and then by running frequencies and by visually reviewing on screen.

8. Files were converted to the NAD83 datum.

9. A series of related files were generated by county: TRS, TR (Township and Range), and county boundary.

Section 3 Spatial Data Organization (not used in this metadata)

Section 4 Coordinate System
Horizontal Coordinate Scheme Universal Transverse Mercator
UTM Zone Number 15
Horizontal Datum NAD83
Horizontal Units meters

Section 5 Attributes
Overview The Public Land Survey System features described in this data set are represented as attributed polygons and label points. The following information is included for each polygon:

1. FIPS_COUN: the Federal Information Processing Standard three-digit county code. Values are 1-173.

2. COUN: a two digit county code. Values are 1-87.

3. TOWN: a three digit PLSS township number. Values are 26-168. The direction is assumed to be north. Township 58 1/2 in Range 17 (St. Louis County) is numbered 58. See FRACTION_TWP code to distinguish from Township 58.

4. RANG: a two digit PLSS range number (values are 1-51). Range 42 1/2 in Townships 159 and 160 (Roseau County) is numbered 42. See FRACTION_TWP to distinguish from Range 42.

5. DIR: a one digit direction indicator: East = 1, West = 2.

6. SECT: a two digit PLSS section number. Values are 1-36.

7. FRACTION_TWP (FRACTION_T in shapefile format): a flag to indicate whether the township is a fractional (half) one. Y = YES; N = NO.

8. ACRES: area in acres calculated from the data set for each PLSS subdivision. This value represents a calculated value from the digital data set. It DOES NOT represent the results of a land survey.

9. CTRS: Combination of attributes 1, 3 - 6, showing County, Township, Range, Direction and Section.

10. TRS: Combination of attributes 3 - 6, showing Township, Range, Direction and Section.

11. X-COORD and Y-COORD: the x, y coordinates of an internal label point for each quarter-quarter section recorded in UTM units: meters, extended zone 15, NAD 83.

12. MATCH: Open field that can be used in relating.

13. Township and Range Label (TWP_LABEL) - TR FILES ONLY - A character item to use when creating township and range labels. Includes the characters: T, R and range direction, e.g., T164 R51W.
Detailed Citation
Table Detail:

Section 6 Distribution
Publisher Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo)
Publication Date 1999
Contact Person Information Nancy Rader, GIS Data Coordinator
Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo)
658 Cedar Street, Room 300
St. Paul, MN  55155
Phone: 651-201-2489
Fax: 651-296-6398
Distributor's Data Set Identifier TRS
Distribution Liability MnGeo's data disclaimer is online:
Ordering Instructions This data set is distributed in several GIS formats on the internet by clicking below after Online Linkage. The statewide files include: trs (township, range and section); tr (township and range, but no county or sections); ctr (township, range and county); cty (county boundaries); bndy (state boundary).
Online Linkage I AGREE to the notice in "Distribution Liability" above. Clicking to agree will either begin the download process, link to a service, or provide more instructions. See "Ordering Instructions" above for details.

Section 7 Metadata Reference
Metadata Date 02/19/2016
Contact Person Information Nancy Rader, GIS Data Coordinator
Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo)
658 Cedar Street, Room 300
St. Paul, MN  55155
Phone: 651-201-2489
Fax: 651-296-6398
Metadata Standard Name Minnesota Geographic Metadata Guidelines
Metadata Standard Version 1.2
Metadata Standard Online Linkage

This page last updated: 02/19/2016
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