township and range

In keeping with the Land Ordinance of 1785, most of the United States west of the Appalachians was surveyed into a grid of mile-square sections, each of 640 acres. A block of thirty-six sections, six miles to a side, formed a township, and a series of townships stretching north and south along the meridian, like a string of boxy beads, was named a range. Hence, township and range describes this rectangular system for carving up, numbering, and naming the public lands. A township is more likely to serve as a unit of government in the densely settled eastern regions, as in Ohio or Michigan, than in the sparsely settled West, as in Wyoming or Nevada. Between eastern Utah and California, the series of mountain ranges alternating with long valleys forms a physiographic region called Basin and Range. The unfenced grazing lands there, and elsewhere in the West, are known as rangeland or open range, inspiring the cowboy song “Home, Home on the Range.”

Scott Russell Sanders