PLSS Data & Applications

Survey Control Finder (Online Application)

Survey Control Finder is a free application designed as a central point of access for locating Wisconsin Public Land Survey System (PLSS) corners for a variety of counties with access to related attribute information and metadata. Most appealing is the direct linkage, in many cases, to County websites for their corner tie sheets. Survey Control Finder has been endorsed by the Wisconsin County Surveyor’s Association as a vehicle representing statewide county collaborations for displaying and providing access of their progress towards the completion and maintenance of the PLSS in the state.

Survey Control Finder also provides export functions such as KML, Shapefile, CSV, and GeoJSON file formats.

E4 PLSS Database

The database contains a collection of all uniquely identifiable local-level PLSS data, and also aggregates that data into a standardized schema and format.  This database relies on local-level coordinate information, allowing for an accurate representation of the on-the-ground location of the PLSS corners, resulting in a more accurate section polygon layer.

The database includes a PLSS corner layer, a section polygon layer, as well as a quarter-section and quarter-quarter-section polygon layers.  Note that the quarter-section and quarter-quarter-section polygon layers are based on protracted (not actually monumented) quarter-section and quarter-quarter-section points.  Protraction, a method of geometrically extending lines between between points was used to construct these layers.  These subdivisions have not been surveyed and should only be used for mapping reference purposes and are not representative of actual surveyed section subdivisions.

Original Survey Records & Maps

The field notes and plat maps of the public land survey of Wisconsin are a valuable resource for original land survey information, as well as for understanding Wisconsin’s landscape history. The survey of Wisconsin was conducted between 1832 and 1866 by the federal General Land Office. This work established the township, range and section grid; the pattern upon which land ownership and land use is based. The survey records were transferred to the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands after the original survey was completed. Since that time, these records have been available for consultation at the BCPL’s office in Madison, as hand-transcriptions, and more recently on microfilm. Now, they are being made available via the internet as electronic images.

WIGLOSR Database

The Mladenoff Lab digitized the entire set of field notes for the state of Wisconsin and compiled the WIGLOSR database.   This database consists of the biological and ecological information contained in the notes. Read the documentation for a brief historical overview and description of the US public lands survey system (PLSS), its application to Wisconsin, an outline of the database and its contents, and perhaps most importantly, a review of caveats and limitations to the use of the data.

GLO Field Notebooks

The notebook pages have been available as microfilm from the SHS and copies of these are known to exist in some county surveyor’ offices. A recent project involving BCPL has resulted in the digital scanning of all of the notebook pages.

GLO Plat Maps

Shortly after the field surveys were completed in an area, the notebook contents were used by GLO staff in Chicago to draft plat maps showing the layout of the PLSS in context of noted geographical features such as rivers, lakes, trails, and settlements. These maps have been scanned by the BCPL and made available.


During the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) did some field work in support of finding and/or marking of PLSS corners. These projects were primarily in northern forested areas, and the first place to search for records of this work is at the county courthouse. The State Archivist at the Wisconsin State Historical Society is a secondary source and can assist with searches of the National Archives.

Last updated: June 8, 2023