Plot a Metes and Bounds Legal Land Description
Setup an Account (optional)
- An account lets you 'Save' your projects.
- 'Save' also adds another 15 lines to the bottom of the data entry form.
- An account lets you have access to Version 10 (Released December 2022), which plots non-tangent curves and allows you to add and delete lines anywhere in the data entry spreadsheet.
- You may create an account without any purchase.
- Check runs a syntax check on your data, plots the land, and calculate area and closure.
- The starting point should meet up with the ending point (much less than an inch). This is called "Closure".
- The area (acreage) should be very close (within a 1000th) to what is on the legal land description.
- Data Entry Errors will be highlighted.
- Hover over the highlighted fields to see the error message.
- 'Check' is a Free
- Computes Latitudes and Longitudes for all points.
- Computes arc lengths and chord lengths for all curves.
- Has links to download the point coordinates in CSV, KML, GPX and JSON formats.
- Has links to draw your property on top of Road and Satellite Maps.
- 'Calc' is a Paid Service.
- This allows you to 'Save' your projects.
- 'Save' will also add additional lines to the bottom of the data entry form.
- To 'Save', you must manually click the 'Save' button. This app does not automatically save.
- Save only appears if you have an account and are logged in.
- The first time you click 'Check' or 'Calc', a new Tab will be created in your Web Browser
- Click on that new tab, and drag and drop that tab onto your second monitor
- Now when you click 'Check' or 'Calc', the data entry screen will stay up on the first monitor, and the output will draw in the second monitor
Using Google Earth to Plot Multiple Projects
This is probably the easiest way to overlay multiple properties onto the same map.
- First, install Google Earth on your Computer.
- Then create a Project and Enter in your Land Description
- Click 'Calc'. Then click on the Download KML link and save the KML file to your computer
- Open up your download folder and click on the KML file.
Because Google Earth is already installed, clicking the KML file will automatically start Google Earth and import your KML file.
Then Google Earth will zoom into your location.
When you shutdown Google Earth, it will even nag you to save the KML file import as part of the Google Earth Setup.
Internet Map Overlay Accuracy is ±30 Feet
Internet satellite images are not perfectly lined up with latitudes and longitudes. Generally, accuracy is within ±30 feet.
Visually, this is plus/minus the width of 2 lane road.
So what happens is that sometimes you are sure you have everything keyed in just right, but the whole overlay looks like it needs to be shifted 10 or 20 feet one way or another to line up with the satellite image.
One suggestion is to try the Bing and Leaflet overlays and also download the KML file into Google Earth.
One of the three maps may be better than the others.
'Check' is free and does not consume any credits.
It 'checks' your input for errors, draws out the land, calculates area and calculates closure.
It is used to check your progress as you enter in the data.
Each 'Calc' consumes 1 credit. Your first 3 'Calcs' are free.
Calc does latitude and longitude calculations and displays them on-screen, as well provide links to download the coordinates of your finished project in CSV, GPX, KML and GEOJSON formats.
Typically 20 to 30 credits are required to complete a project.
If you wish to setup an account, click Setting up an Account and follow the instructions.
If already have an account, click here.
Or, you can click "Login" on the top right hand corner of any webpage, sign in, and then click the "PLOT" button on the black menu bar.
Metes and Bounds Land Description
- A Metes and Bounds Land Description starts at a well defined beginning point and traces the perimeter of a property using carefully measured distances and angles until it finally returns to the point of beginning.
- The end point must meet up with the start point. (Closure)
A tract of land in the Northwest quarter of the Northwest quarter of Section 30, Township 1 South, Range 66 West of the 6th Principal Meridian, County of Adams, State of Colorado
described as follows:
Commencing at the Northwest corner of said Section 30;
Thence South 20°30' East, a distance of 140.60 feet to the Point of Beginning;
Thence North 88°55' East, a distance of 200.00 feet;
Thence South, a distance of 125.00 feet;
Thence South 88°55' West, a distance of 200.00 feet;
Thence North, a distance of 125.00 feet to the Point of Beginning;
Containing 0.57 acres, more or less.
Bearings are based on the north line of the Northwest quarter of Section 30 to bear North 89°42' East with all bearings contained herein relative thereto.
Elements of a Land Description
- The preamble provides a general description of the land to be described including the county, state and other general information to orient the reader.
- The preamble gets the reader to the proper general location.
- POINT OF COMMENCEMENT
- This is the reference point.
- A Point of Commencement is used to unambigously reference the parcel to a well-established point (ie: a government survey corner).
- A Point of Commencement is used when the reference point is not on the perimeter of the parcel.
- The Point of Commencement is either inside the land parcel or on another land parcel some distance away.
- There might not be a Point of Commencement.
- POINT OF BEGINNING (POB)
- The Point of the Beginning is "pen down", the first point where the drawing of the perimeter begins.
- If there is no Point of Commencement, the Point of Beginning is also the reference point.
- The Body contains a sequence of Calls.
- These Calls draw the perimeter around the land parcel and end up back to the Point of Beginning.
- Calls recite Courses and Distances.
- Calls can be a straight line, a curve, or a line parallel line to another line.
- Calls can be references to adjoining boundaries, natural or artificial monuments, roads or rivers.
- Courses are the direction of a line.
- Courses are usually referenced to true north, but sometimes are referenced to magnetic north or a Basis of Bearing
- Distance is the length in a well-known unit, such as feet, meters or chains.
- An Area Call sets forth the approximate acreage in the parcel.
- The acreage in the Area Call should be very close to the calculated area as defined by the sequence of calls in the Body.
- BASIS OF BEARING
- A Basis of Bearing is used instead of true north or magnetic north as the reference for the Courses.
- A Basis of Bearing is rare, most legal descriptions do not have one.
- If a land description has a Basis of Bearing, it will be explicity stated. Otherwise leave the Basis of Bearing fields blank.
- In some US states, a Land Description must always state it's Basis of Bearing, even if it is True North.
- If there is no Basis of Bearing, this application will use True North
A short description of the land parcel
The Formal Description of the Land Parcel
(It makes your printed out documents look better)
Size and Shape of the Earth
The Earth is not a perfectly round sphere, it is an ellipsoid.
An ellipsoid Earth bulges out at the equator, like when a child sits on a beach ball.
There are slightly different sets of numbers used to describe the ellipsoid shape of the earth.
Some are newer and more accurate.
Some work better on a specific part of the earth, like the area around Mount Everest.
As a default, the plotter uses WGS84, which is the current "standard".
If unsure, leave this field blank.
ELLIPSOIDS Semi-major Semi-minor
Equatorial Polar Inverse
axis (m) axis (m) flattening
Name a b 1/f
---------------------------- --------------- ---------------- ---------------
Airy 6377563.396 6356256.91 299.3249753
Modified Airy 6377340.189 6356034.446 299.3249646
Australian National 6378160 6356774.7192 298.25
Bessel 1841 6377397.155 6356078.9629 299.1528128
Bessel 1841 (Namibia) 6377483.865 6356165.383 299.1528128
Clarke 1880 6378249.145 6356514.8696 293.465
Clarke 1866 (NAD27) 6378206.4 6356583.8 294.9786982
Everest 1830 6377276.34518 6356075.41511 300.8017
Everest 1948 6377298.556 6356097.55 300.8017
Mod. Everest 1948 6377304.063 6356103.039 300.8017
Everest 1956 6377301.243 6356100.228 300.8017
Everest (Pakistan) 6377309.613 6356108.571 300.8017
Mod. Fischer 1960 6378155 6356773.32 298.3
GRS80 (NAD83) 6378137 6356752.31414 298.257222101
GRS-80 CHINA 6378140 6356755.288 298.257
Helmert 1906 6378200 6356818.17 298.3
Hough 1960 6378270 6356684.34343 297
Indonesian 1974 6378160 6356774.504 298.247
International 1924 6378388 6356911.9462 297
Krassowsky 1940 6378245 6356863 298.3
SGS 85 6378136 6356751.302 298.257
South American 1969 6378160 6356774.7192 298.25
WGS72 6378135 6356750.52 298.26
WGS84 6378137 6356752.314245 298.257223563
Airy 1830 6377563.541 6356257.053 299.325
Clarke 1858 6378361 6356685 294.26
Clarke 1880 French 6378249.2 6356515 293.46598
Clarke 1880 Mod. 6378249.145 6356514.966 293.466307656
Clarke 1880 Palistine 6378300.79 6356566.435 293.466307656
Clarke 1880 6378249.145326 6356514.966721 293.4663076
Danish 6377104.43 6355847.415 300
Delambre 6376523.3 6355863.232 308.64
Everest 1969 6377295.664 6356094.668 300.8017
Fischer 1960 6378166 6356784.284 298.3
GRS 1967 6378160 6356774.504 298.247
Hayford 1909 6378388 6356909 297
Plessis 6376523.3 6355863.232 308.64
Schott 1900 6378157 6357210.672 304.5
Struve 6378298.3 6356657.143 294.73
War Office 1924 6378300.58 6356752.267 296
WGS 60 6378165 6356783.287 298.3
WGS 66 6378145 6356759.769 298.25
---------------------------- --------------- ---------------- ---------------
The "Line Number" is not part of a legal land description.
It is used by this application to provide a reference to a specific line of the input form during error checking.
The Line Number is also used to label points on the drawing that do not have a Point Name.
Starting Latitude & Longitude
This is the starting point used to calculate all the other Latitudes and Longitudes.
Latitude and Longitude are entered in decimal degrees, with longitude being a negative number in the Western Hemisphere.
Latitude and Longitude at the 5th decimal place is about a meter. (eg: 50.123456° N)
The MGRS app can be used to convert a Degree, Minutes, Seconds into Decimal Degrees.
Entering a Latitude and Longitude is recommended
- if you require coordinates accurate to many decimal places
- if you need accurate closure numbers.
- where latitudes are significantly greater than 30°
- where distances cover miles
This app will work OK without the starting latitude and longitude for distances under a few hundred feet.
Sectional (A Starting Point Referencing PLSS/DLS Corners)
In the parts of the United States covered by the Public Land Survey System
and the parts of Canadian provinces covered by the Dominion Land Survey,
the starting Latitude and Longitude are often corners that can be obtained by using one of our
sectional land description converters.
- Enter the Sectional Land Description and click calc.
- Download and save the CSV file.
- Right Click and Open the CSV file with a text editor like notepad.
- Use notepad instead of Excel, because Excel can round numbers and destroy the accuracy needed in this application.
- Find the corner in the CSV file that matches the corner in the legal land description.
- Copy and paste the latitude and longitude into the form above as your starting latitude and longitude.
Government Databases (A Starting Point Referencing a Survey Monument)
Finding US Survey Marks and Datasheets
National Geodetic Survey
Get Latitude and Longitude by Clicking on a Map
The accuracy of internet satellite imagery is generally within plus/minus 30 feet (10 meters).
Get Latitude and Longitude with your Smart Phone
Smart Phones have a built in GPS chip that can directly receive satellite GPS signals.
- Place the smart phone on the starting location.
Go over to the MGRS converter and click the "Get" button.
In 5 to 10 seconds, the Latitude and Longitude fields will be filled in by the GPS technology in your phone.
Write down the Latitude and Longitude. The phone may clear the data during a power cycle.
- Check that the MGRS converter can get a GPS location before you leave home!
If "allow this webpage to access your location" is turned off in your phone's web browser, it can be difficult to turn back on. You will probably want to have a desktop computer handy to lookup the instructions.
Smart phone accuracy is typically claimed to be within 10 meters (30 feet), but we have received emails where real life results were much better.
Some smartphones are more accurate and consistent than others.
Some phones work better in the city than others.
If you have the opportunity, test your phone accuracy against professional survey equipment or against Survey Monuments.
Take several readings on the same spot and see how close the multiple readings are to each other.
GPS signals are 'weak' signals. GPS signals bounce off big hills and tall buildings. This can result in a poor GPS readings or none at all.
Generally: Wide open flat prairie GPS is more accurate and works faster than downtown GPS.
Name of this Point
The Point Name is used by the legal text to name a point that will be referenced later on in the same document.
The Point Name is also used to label the point on the drawing.
Point of Beginning
This the point where we begin plotting the property line.
In plotter-speak this is the "Pen Down" command.
Courses are the directions to move. This application accepts courses in in 2 formats 1) Cardinal & 2) Bearings
Cardinal Directions are simply stated as words.
North North East
East North East,
East South East,
South South East,
South South West,
West South West,
West North West &
North North West
Degree, Minutes and Seconds are left blank.
East/West is also left blank.
[North|South], Degree, Minute, Second, [East|West]
The Compass is divided into 4 quadrants.
Directions start at either North or South and proceed at an angle towards East or West.
At least one of the degree, minute or second fields must be filled in.
||Length is a positive number with up to 8 decimal places.
In this application, the "Length" field is also used to hold the "Radius" when plotting curves.
Land Surveying Units of Measures.
These well know units of length are accepted.
US Foot 0.30480061
US Survey Foot
If unsure, select "Foot" rather than "US Foot" in the unit drop down.
Since 1893, the legal definition of the foot in the United States has been based on the meter.
But before that date, the definition of the foot was as adopted by Congress in 1866 was 1 US Foot = 1200/3937 meter exactly.
In 1959, the relationship of the foot to the meter was officially changed to what it is today: 1 Foot = 0.3048 meter exactly.
U.S. Survey Foot (NIST)
Although the difference is small, across the distance of an entire state, it becomes significant.
Basis of Bearing
A Basis of Bearing is used instead of true north or magnetic north as the reference for the Courses.
If there is no Basis of Bearing, leave these fields blank.
Left, Right, Compound & Reverse Curves
Enter in the Central Angle in the Degree/Minute/Second fields.
Enter the Radius in the Length/Radius field.
The radius is the radius of the curve.
The central angle is the angle swept.
In a legal description of a curve there should also be a "length" or "distance" of a curve.
These lengths should be qualified as either "arc length" or the "chord length".
The arc lengths and chord lengths are not used to compute the curve, they are included as a "math" double check.
As an additional double check, many descriptions also include words like "Southwesterly" or "Northerly" to describe the general direction of a curve.
"Thence North 45° East a distance of 20 chains;"
"Thence a curve to the right, having a radius of 12 chains, a central angle of 90°, an arc distance of 18.85 chains and a chord which bears East a distance of 16.97 Chains;"
"Thence a compound curve, having a radius of 8 chains and a central angle of 90°;"
A compound curve requires another curve before it.
"Thence a reverse curve, having a radius of 5 chains and a central angle of 90°;"
A reverse curve is based on the preceding curve.
Sectional Land Descriptions
Sectional Land Descriptions are subdivided by a grid system.
These are found by using these fill-in-the-form programs
||Public Land Survey System
S2 T35N R21W Chisago County, Minnesota
Section 2, Township 35 North, Range 21 West, Fourth Principal Extended
||Dominion Land Survey
Southwest Quarter of Section 24, Township 12, Range 20, West of the 4th Meridian.
||National Topographic System
Series 93, Area K, Sheet 11, Block F, Unit 26, Quarter C
||Federal Permit System
Yellowknife 38 62-30 N 114-15 W
Hay River F 72 61-00 N 115-30 W
||Universal Transverse Mercator
12N 384323 5540791
||Military Grid Reference System
12U UA 84323 40791
12U UA 84 40
Useful Math for Metes and Bounds
COMPUTE CHORD DISTANCE FROM RADIUS AND CENTRAL ANGLE
chord = 2 * radius * sin(centralangle/2)
chord = 2 * 12 * sin(90/2)
chord = 16.97
COMPUTE ARC DISTANCE FROM RADIUS AND CENTRAL ANGLE
arcdistance = centralangle/360 * radius * 2 * PI
arcdistance = 90/360 * 12 * 3.1416
arcdistance = 18.85
More math in 'C'
Legal Land Description References