Surveys of Federal lands have been conducted since the Congressionally approved mandate in 1785. Nevada evolved as a "public land" state with a federally-appointed state Surveyor General under the General Land Office which was replaced by the US Bureau of Land Management in 1946. Each plat was "approved," accepted and signed by the state Surveyor General. The Nevada Division of State Lands was originally the Nevada State Land Register, and then as the Nevada State Lands Office prior to becoming the Nevada Division of State Lands.
Figure 1 - From T 18 S R 50 E
Nevada, largely formed from Utah Territory, gained statehood in 1864 and additional territory on the eastern border from Utah in 1866. The western border was disputed with California even before statehood. Eventually accepted as what is now known as the 120th Meridian north of Lake Tahoe with a diagonal line "in a northwesterly direction" (according to the statehood enabling act of 1864) running from the 37th Parallel to the 39th Parallel at the point intersecting with the 120th Meridian. At the time of statehood, meridians were based on the Washington Prime Meridian. With the addition of land from the Arizona Territory in 1867, the diagonal line was extended to the 35th parallel at the Colorado River.
This oblique border with California was first surveyed in 1860 and again, in more detail, by Von Schmidt, U.S. Deputy Surveyor in 1873. In the 1890’s the border south of Lake Tahoe was again surveyed and, at times, differed by over a mile. Hence the use of the San Bernardino Meridian in Nevada. (Figure 1)
For additional information on survey history, procedures and description, consult the References below.
The division of "townships" began in New England in the 17th century and was officially accepted by Congress in 1785. Subdivisions using the current numbering system for sections (from the northeast corner westward) in a 6 mile township square were accepted in 1796 with modifications over time.
A legal land description of a section includes the State, Principal Meridian name, Township and Range designations with directions, and the section number:
Nebraska, Sixth Principal Meridian, T7N, R2W, sec.5.
Figure 2 - The National Atlas
A typical township is six miles square and contains thirty-six square miles; these thirty-six segments are called sections and begin numbering from upper right to left (Figure 2). The sections may be further subdivided in the manner shown. Only a few of the major subdivisions of the section are shown; many other combinations are possible in describing small parcels of land.
Surveys initiate from the point of intersection of a principal meridian ( a north-south line) and the base line, drawn east-west. (Figure 2) From these points township grids are defined. The maps offered on this site are based on townships specific to a given Range. Townships number north-south; Ranges number east-west.
Figure 4 - Principal U. S. base lines and meridians
Nevada surveys are largely determined from the Mount Diablo Meridian drawn in California just east of the 122nd West Longitude (dissecting Mt. Diablo in California) and the Mount Diablo Base Line drawn just below the 38th Parallel. Nine Standard Parallels are drawn above this base line and seven below. Secondary meridians in Nevada include Humboldt River Guide Meridian just east of 118 W Longitude; the Reese River Guide Meridian west of 117 W. Longitude, and the Ruby Valley Guide Meridian east of 116 Longitude.
The southwest edge of the state is surveyed based on the San Bernardino Meridian (north-south just east of the 117 W Longitude) and the San Bernardino Base Line (just north of the 34th Parallel North). The San Bernardino Meridian and Base Line affect Nevada as a result of historic surveys and resurveys. (Figure 5)