Surveying the Washington Wilderness - Pasayten

 

Early Surveys in the Washington Wilderness - Pasayten

 

To aid in the orderly settlement of newly acquired Western lands in the 1800’s, the Federal Government instituted the Public Land Survey System.  Beginning in Ohio and extending throughout the Louisiana Purchase and on out to the Pacific Coast, the Government Land Office (GLO) surveyed the land in rectangular one mile square Sections.  This system of surveying and land description came to be known as the Public Land Survey System.  Today, the PLSS is still the basis for all real property descriptions and land title in most of the United States.  The exceptions are the original 13 colonies, Texas, which began as an independent republic, and Hawaii.

Contract surveyors worked from the mid 1800’s and well into the 1900’s surveying the boundaries of 36 square mile Townships and one mile square Sections within each Township.  In Washington and Oregon, all land descriptions are referenced to the Willamette Meridian.  The initial point for this meridian is in a park outside of Portland, Oregon.  Townships are numbered North, South, East and West from this initial point.

In the first decades of the 1900’s, Washington State was growing in population and commerce.  The Government Land Office was busy surveying Federal Lands so that they could be patented to homesteaders.  Although they focused on lands which were best for agricultural and settlement, the surveys extended well into the Cascade Mountain Range to aid in the business of timber harvesting, grazing and mining.

On a recent hiking trip into the Pasayten Wilderness North of Winthrop and West of Loomis on the East slopes of the North Cascades, I was surprised to literally stumble across two GLO corner monuments established in 1919 and 1920 near the Canadian Border.  This area is remote and mountainous.  Elevations range from 5000 feet to over 8000 feet.  Yet, over 90 years ago, survey crews painstakingly set iron post monuments every half mile.  Despite the harsh conditions in these mountains, the work done by past generations remains to give testimony to the strong pioneering spirit of our American ancestors.

The Tungsten Road was built to serve the Tungsten Mine in Horseshoe Basin.  The mine started operation in 1904, 15 years before the GLO surveyors entered the area.  Sadly, much of the tungsten removed from this mine went to Germany where it was used against the Allies in World War 1.

Another interesting feature of this area is the U.S. / Canada boundary.  Established by Treaty in 1846, the boundary was later surveyed in the early 1900’s.  The boundary is maintained in forested areas and memorialized by monuments, such as Monument 104 pictured here on Armstrong Mountain.  The international boundary and monument are identified on the Government Land Office Map shown below.

When backpacking into these remote wilderness regions, it is easy to overlook that many others came generations before and that the wilderness is not as unknown as we might like to think.

Scipio M. Walton, PLS
Senior Surveyor
Harmsen, LLC
360-794-7811  |  skipw@harmsenllc.com

 

Gallery: Pasayten
Quarter Corner
Quarter Corner
This quarter corner monument between Sections 32 and 33, Township 40 North, Range 23 East, W.M. is on the south side of Windy Peak at about elevation 8000 feet.
Quarter Corner Detail
Quarter Corner Detail
This quarter corner monument between Sections 32 and 33, Township 40 North, Range 23 East, W.M. is on the south side of Windy Peak at about elevation 8000 feet.
Section Corner
Section Corner
This Section Corner post common to Sections 2, 3, 10 and 11 in Township 40 North, Range 23 East, W.M. is on the south side of Arnold Peak at about elevation 7600 feet.
Section Corner Detail
Section Corner Detail
This Section Corner post common to Sections 2, 3, 10 and 11 in Township 40 North, Range 23 East, W.M. is on the south side of Arnold Peak at about elevation 7600 feet.
Government Land Office (GLO) Map
Government Land Office (GLO) Map
A detail of the official Government Land Office map for Township 40 North, Range 23 East, W.M. begun in 1919 and completed in 1922. The map shows established roads and trails in the remote and mountainous Horseshoe Basin area of the Pasayten Wilderness.
International Boundary Monument 104
International Boundary Monument 104
U.S. / Canada International Boundary Monument 104 on Armstrong Mountain.
U.S. / Canada Boundary
U.S. / Canada Boundary
Visible line of U.S. / Canada Boundary.

 

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