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Random Thoughts

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Max Rockatansky:

--- Quote from: elsmere241 on January 22, 2023, 04:10:13 PM ---
--- Quote from: Max Rockatansky on January 21, 2023, 10:04:07 PM ---This hobby has always been male-centric.  Every woman I've ever dated (including my wife) never understood what I got out of driving around weird roads and hunting for interesting signs.

--- End quote ---

My wife is just starting to grasp the logic behind interstate numbering (or what's left of it).  I remember her asking me not too long ago why I-4 was in Florida, but I-5 was on the west coast.  A Facebook meme helped her with that.

--- End quote ---

Ironically my wife sent me the same Facebook meme.  It’s not as though I hadn’t already told her the Interstates and US Routes were mirror systems several times by then.

Regarding the “abysmal” statement above, is this something that can be solved or needs to be solving?  I and several other community member try to include our wives all the time, it’s not as though they are unwelcome at Meets and such. 

J N Winkler:
Today's random thought:  what happens at state lines when adjacent states have both been surveyed using the PLSS?

In Kansas, county boundaries normally follow section lines, which means that if there is a break in a north-south section line at a standard parallel, the county line will have a brief jog along the parallel to pick up the next north-south section line.  (Example:  Sedgwick County has such a break at 77th Street North, which is also the Fifth Standard Parallel South.)  This does not appear to happen at the Colorado state line, as the western boundary of Kansas is explicitly defined as 25° west of the Washington meridian (about 102° and change west of Greenwich).  And although Kansas and most of Colorado are surveyed on the same meridian--the Sixth Principal Meridian--the two states have truncated sections along their shared border.

This made me curious as to whether there are any cases where state borders behave like Kansas county lines.  After inspecting PLSS township boundaries using an online tool, I have not found any.  In most cases, state boundaries are visible as areas of truncated sections.  (In some places, such as at the Minnesota-Wisconsin state line near Duluth, the sections immediately adjacent to the boundary are almost splinter width.)  However, Washington and Oregon appear to have been surveyed together, as townships don't break across the Columbia River.  Townships also appear to be continuous across the Minnesota-North Dakota border and the Minnesota-South Dakota border north of Ortonville, Minnesota; in both cases the border follows the Red River.  I did not find any other instances of apparent continuity across river boundaries, e.g. along the Mississippi.

Edited to add:  Kansas and Nebraska also appear to be on a common survey that is continuous across the state line, which overlaps 40° N.

US 89:
Partial answer to this question would be this map, which shows all the survey baselines and meridians and the lands surveyed from them:

As far as I know, I don’t think any state boundaries are explicitly defined as PLSS section lines. Most of them are either a river (or an old channel of one), a mountain watershed divide, a line of latitude or longitude, a line extending due north/south/whatever from a river confluence, or a straight line connecting intersection points of any lines from the above categories.

Now, if you’re Kansas/Nebraska, your border is the survey baseline…but it’s still defined as a latitude.

My guess is that you are not finding any such boundary irregularities because Congress tends to establish non-natural boundaries as high-level latitude and longitude definitions without regard to the existing PLSS boundaries. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, for example, fixed Kansas's southern border at the 37th parallel north. Thus, if there had been any jogs in a pre-existing PLSS boundary on this parallel, they would have simply been ignored in favor of following the boundary as defined by Congress. If there was not adequate surveying to establish where the desired boundary ran, Congress would likely have provided it as a matter of regulating interstate commerce.

Meanwhile, at the state level, it is much more desirable to follow existing PLSS section lines in setting county boundaries. Doing so means the state can use the existing, already drawn lines rather than have to pay to have new lines surveyed and monumented. It also means that county lines are less likely to bisect existing municipalities or properties (or if they do, they at least do so in a way easily describable through legal language and thus more easily understood by the legal system). In more modern times, section line roads exist, meaning that the line itself is for all practical purposes tied to a physical object easily understood by laypeople.

State and county governments also have a lot more at stake because they are more likely to have to deal with a constituent angry about an inconvenient political boundary negatively affecting them on a personal level. Congress, however, is much less likely to feel the need to be responsive about such trivial matters. (Congress also had the pleasure of drawing most of their boundaries before the areas they were drawing them through were settled by Europeans, so there was less of an incentive to follow pre-existing survey lines to begin with.)

J N Winkler:
The thing I find interesting is that, with the exception of river boundaries and the Kansas-Nebraska border, there is no continuity of townships across state lines even when the areas on both sides have been surveyed to the same combination of baseline and principal meridian.  For example, an oblong section of eastern Illinois is covered by the Second Principal Meridian and its baseline, which also cover nearly all of Indiana, and although they were fixed in 1805, there are still splinter townships on either side of the Illinois-Indiana line.

Now I am wondering if the presence of these splinter townships has to do not with whether surveying occurs after admission to the Union, but rather organization as a territory.  The Illinois Territory was organized in 1809, after the Second Principal Meridian and its baseline were fixed, but the Indiana Territory was organized in 1800, albeit with lands that later became part of the Illinois and Michigan Territories.

As for county lines not breaking up PLSS sections, it will not surprise me if that norm is more or less universal in areas surveyed to the PLSS.  However, I've done some looking into the Texas land survey system (which of course is completely separate from the PLSS) and it seems that while counties are not allowed to straddle the boundary of any railroad district (Texas has 12), a county line can divide lesser surveying units as long as both parts are within the same district.


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