Are the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) section lines on US Topo maps a legal record?

No, US Topo maps are not legal documents and the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) representation is not legally authoritative.

The sections, townships, and ranges of the PLSS that are shown on US Topo maps are derived from GIS data from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in cooperation with the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC). 

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How do I find, download, or order topographic maps?

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been the primary civilian mapping agency of the United States since 1879. The best known USGS maps are the 1:24,000-scale topographic maps, also known as 7.5-minute quadrangles. Download all dates and scales of USGS topographic maps free of charge from the following applications or order paper copies of all...

Where can I find indexes of USGS topographic maps?

View map indices on these interactive maps (you must zoom in to see the index lines and map names) : Map Locator on the USGS Store - Click the icon on the left that looks like two pieces of paper and select “1:24,000”. TopoView - Click on any of the round map scale indicators on the right side of the map. The National Map Viewer - Click on the...

Will US Topo maps become part of the Historical Topographic Map Collection when a newer version is published?

Superseded US Topo maps will remain available for download, but will not become part of the Historical Topographic Map Collection , which is scans of USGS topographic quadrangles originally published as paper documents between 1884-2006. The first US Topo maps were published in 2009. They are updated and superseded every 3 years (maps for one...

Are there metadata Files for USGS topographic maps?

Yes. GeoPDF files for both Historical topographic maps (produced 1884-2006) and US Topo maps (produced 2009-present) come with an XML metadata file attached to each GeoPDF file. To access the metadata file, download the GeoPDF file, open it in Acrobat Reader, click on the paperclip icon, then select a file from the list that appears (a US Topo Map...

How can I find the source and vintage of each US Topo data layer?

The credit legend in the lower left-hand corner of the collar on a US Topo map includes a short summary of data sources and data currency. More detailed source information is in an XML metadata file attached to each GeoPDF file. This file contains series-level, quad-level, and layer-level metadata, but US Topo does not preserve or track feature-...

How do US Topo maps differ from historical USGS topographic maps?

Historically, USGS topographic maps were made using data from primary sources including direct field observations. Those maps were compiled, drawn, and edited by hand. By today's standards, those traditional methods are very expensive and time-consuming, and the USGS no longer has funding to make maps that way. A new USGS topographic map series...

Can I still get the older topographic maps?

Yes. Topographic maps originally published as paper documents between 1884-2006 have been scanned and published as the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection . Download our historical topographic maps and our more current US Topo maps (published 2009-present) free of charge using TopoView (GeoPDF, GeoTIFF, JPEG, and KMZ formats) or using the...

Do US Topos and The National Map have a layer that shows the Public Land Survey System (PLSS)?

The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States. PLSS surveys, which are available for portions of land in 30 southern and western states , are made by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The PLSS typically divides land into 6-mile-square townships. Townships are subdivided into 36 one-mile-...
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Date published: August 18, 2016

Story Map - Topographic Maps for the Nation

The USGS National Geospatial Program has released an interactive Story Map giving viewers an overview of the US Topo map program

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Public Land Survey System
July 14, 2017

PLSS

Public Land Survey System

Santa Fe, New Mexico 2013 US Topo map showing PLSS data
July 22, 2016

Santa Fe, New Mexico 2013 US Topo quadrangle, showing PLSS data

Santa Fe, New Mexico 2013 US Topo quadrangle, showing PLSS data with contour, orthoimage and woodland layers off. Note: "US Topo maps are not legal documents. The PLSS information shown on these maps is for general reference purposes only, and should not be used to determine legal boundaries or land ownership. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the authoritative source

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State County and PLSS boundaries from a 2015 US Topo map for Burlington, Iowa
December 31, 2015

State County and PLSS boundaries from a 2015 US Topo map for Burlingto

State County and PLSS boundaries from a 2015 US Topo map for Burlington, Iowa

WI LaCrosse PLSS US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)
December 31, 2015

WI LaCrosse PLSS US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

WI LaCrosse PLSS US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

This is a Public Land Surveys map.

Public Land Surveys map

Public Land Surveys map.

Attribution: Science Support
This is an illustration of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS).

Public Land Survey System (PLSS)

Public Land Survey System (PLSS).

Attribution: Science Support