Surveying - Information

Sherburne County maintains and creates a variety of survey related information. This page provides a brief description of information located at various offices in the Government Center at Elk River. The information is organized by county department.

Survey Division

Highway Division

- Other County Departments: -

County Recorder, Registrar of Titles

County Auditor

County Assessor

Planning and Zoning

Court Administration (Clerk of Courts)


Survey Division:

CS-1) Parcel Mapping

Sherburne County has completed parcel mapping the entire County. This was accomplished by a combination of outside contracting and in-house as time was available. Updating of existing mapping is an ongoing effort. The digital parcel and plat mapping is updated weekly.

Mapping consists of two classes. "B" maps are graphically to scale but not dimensioned and are the basis of our GIS parcel data. Our "A" maps include most dimensioning and are intended for use by the title professional, engineering, and surveying communities. Portions of our mapping are printed. The rest are digital, and printing of your area of interest is available with proper notice or from this website under Mapping & Aerials.

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CS-2) Major utility easements:

Our Survey Division is (as time allows) researching easements of record for the pipeline and electric transmission line easements throughout our County. Copies of these easements will be separated by Township and kept in folders for that purpose in the same drawers as our individual section files.

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CS-3) Plat checking, and Platting Manual

View/Download Platting Manual  (last updated Feb 02, 2017)

Our office reviews preliminary plats for the County Planning & Zoning Office in those areas of the County not within the cities. We also check all final plats (including R.L.S's and C.I.C's) for mathematical accuracy and compliance with State Law and our Platting Manual being a surveyor's "guide" of our minimum standards.

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CS-4) Plat Database:

Search the Plat / RLS database

Our office has also developed and maintains a "Plat Database" containing information on each plat in the County including recording data; surveyor; location by section and where within the section. It also contains information on governing bodies; number of blocks, lots, outlots; public water frontage; included or adjoining streets and highways; and pertinent notes as to corrections, vacations, conservation easements, etc., that are known to us.

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CS-5) Bench Marks

Benchmarks are monuments with known sea level elevations. Contrary to common misconception, they are for vertical data only and thus unrelated to horizontal property boundaries. Database sources include data from Federal, State and local governments, and from private engineering and surveying efforts. We also harvest benchmarks from preliminary subdivision plats or grading plans. This information is, in turn, available to those same entities for their use. While Public Works maintains the database, we make no guarantees as to the accuracy of any individual benchmark, and depend upon our users to inform us as to the condition of the monuments and any possible errors that they may find. This will help us keep the database up-to-date and eliminate any benchmarks that have been disturbed or destroyed.

We hope to eventually have a program to visit these benchmarks, note their condition, and determine sub-meter GPS locations of each. Benchmark information is available from our department. Since each Bench Mark is entered into the database only by the section it is within, the researcher needs to also be aware that they may need to request a search in neighboring sections also.

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CS-6) Section Dimension sheets

View Dimension Sheets

As a part of the section corner maintenance discussed at ties below, Sherburne County has an ongoing program, utilizing GPS technology, to determine Latitude and Longitude and place County Coordinates on each section corner. Since "40's" are not perfect, two very important benefits result from determining County Coordinates. First, the position of a destroyed or disturbed monument can be restored from these coordinates even if the ties are also destroyed. Second, accurate and seamless computer mapping of all properties can be made from these, with the added benefit of computer updating without having to occasionally redraw the entire map as with traditional drafting methods. Our dimension sheets also allow surveyors and other qualified individuals to properly subdivide the section into its parts, and calculate acreage, as a preliminary aid to actual field surveys. Sherburne County currently has about 85% of its sections with County Coordinates already determined.

We are in the process of revising and updating the information shown for each section. We are also in the process of placing this information on the web. The format will include the following: County Coordinates, Government chainages, except where they are the standard "20", "40", or "80" respectively. Government Lot lines and numbering; and exterior section dimensions only except in the few cases where there is a "Historic Center" or other monument known to us that may/will affect the subdivision of that section. When this is complete, we intend to do away with the former 8 & by 11 inch sheets as it is all too easy for some change or update to be missed and that sheet not updated.

For copies contact our office.

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CS-7) Section corner "ties"

View Tie Sheets

There is a common public misconception that each "40" is exactly 1320 feet on a side and has a right angle (90 degrees) in each corner. While organizing the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), the Federal Government recognized that measurement errors would be made, that there would be improvements in measurement methods, and that monuments would become obliterated or even lost. Thus they wisely laid down "rules" for subsequent surveyors on how to restore these corners. Among the most important of these rules is that the original corner positions they established shall remain "fixed" in the place where originally set, regardless of any subsequent measurement differences. Thus, as survey methods improved, differences will be found between the original PLSS measurement and the "modern". This, in turn, led to rules for the equitable distribution of errors. When the System was complete, the Federal Government handed over the survey notes and plats to the states.

The State subsequently passed that information along to each county along with laws that said that the counties may (not "shall") maintain the System. As a result, for years, many county governments did nothing and let the System deteriorate. Maintenance was thus left up to subsequent surveyors (usually elected County Surveyors).

Sherburne County, for some 35 years now, has had one form or another of ongoing programs to restore and maintain the section corner monuments, including a "bounty" whereby a surveyor would receive a fixed fee from the County for restoring and recording information on a corner. It wasn't until 1991 that, due to increasing land values and development pressure, Sherburne County went from an appointed, part time, County Surveyor to a full-time status with office and staff. Ties are measurements to nearby objects (trees, buildings, poles, fences, road centerlines, and the like) for ease in finding the monument. Where possible we also place signage near the corner monument or paint the road surface. These ties are in the form of a drawn Certificate of Location of a Government Corner. Because the actual monuments can be buried, or even destroyed by construction and other factors, we ask the public to let us know when a monument in their area may be in danger. As we update these Certificates we will also include on each the County Coordinates and latitude/longitude for each monument.

Sherburne County currently has about 98% of the corners in the County restored and documented. We also maintain a file for each individual section containing information, including old Certificates - thus providing a history of these corners. To see these, please contact our office.

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CS-8) Public Land Survey System information

We maintain copies of the field notes of the "PLSS" from which the Government Land Office (GLO) Survey Plats were drawn. (The GLO Plats are available for inspection at the County Recorder's office. We can also make limited copies of these.) These GLO plats were the documents used by the first settlers when buying and homesteading acreage. The field notes (ca. 1850's) also contain the surveyor's comments as to the quality of the lands, and other observations, and provide the earliest record of what these lands were like before settlement. For copies contact Public our office.

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CS-9) Tract Maps - Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

We also have notes and "Tract maps" of almost all of the surveys for the acquired lands now forming the boundaries of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. These surveys were done in the 1960's and 70's by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries & Wildlife, a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior. All the dimensioning on these is in chains and has to be multiplied by 66 to convert to feet. These boundaries were, for the most part, monumented and signed. Although some controlling section corners were subsequently revised, these monumented boundaries are considered to be "final" by the Bureau and Refuge personnel. These maps aid our mapping efforts as well as provide information to landowners adjoining the Refuge. Permission from Refuge Headquarters (on CSAH #9 near the St. Francis River) is necessary in order to enter and survey within the Refuge.

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CS-10) Sand Dunes State Forest surveys

We also have copies of most of the surveys done by the MnDNR for the Sand Dunes State Forest, and several other DNR areas within the County. There are also a few copies of lake Public Access surveys in our files. It is best to contact the DNR to see about a specific landing on the lake of your interest. For copies of Refuge or DNR surveys, contact our office.

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CS-11) Subsequent old Survey Records

As discussed in "ties" above, once the PLSS was completed, the government turned the notes and plats over to the State, and from there the counties ended up with responsibility for maintenance of the System. This maintenance (if done at all) was usually done by the County Surveyor. These old survey records contain information as to subsequent surveys and a history of corner maintenance. Prior to modern methods of monumentation and GPS, such surveys were often our only records between the PLSS and today. They still are a valuable resource for records on the few remaining unrestored corners as well as for other historical purposes. For instance, the County Surveyors usually enlisted the help of the landowners themselves when doing their surveys thus giving the researcher information he/she may not be able to find elsewhere. To view these records, contact Public Works at the Government Center. Limited copying is possible.

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CS-12) Other survey related records

We maintain files of private surveys that we have obtained to aid us in our Parcel Mapping efforts. In addition, we have several other surveys of interest. In ca. 1898 the Mississippi River Commission surveyed the river for engineering and navigation purposes. They produced maps showing the river, its shores and islands as well as soundings and composition of the river bed. While they do show lines of occupation, unfortunately they do not show section lines. While our original beautiful ink on linen maps on these have been turned over to the Sherburne County Historical Society for safekeeping, copies are here in our files. Limited copying is possible.

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CS-13) 1920's Northern States Power

In the 1920's Northern States Power was considering a series of low dams along the Mississippi River and commissioned a Chicago engineering firm to survey the lands in question. These surveys show elevations and proposed property lines, section and "40" lines, monuments found or set, together with the owners (at that time) of the lands NSP was considering purchasing. Often these surveys are the only record we have of subsequent surveys along the river. To view these records, contact Public Works, Government Center. Limited copying is possible.

NOTE: Although surveyors have the right by law to enter upon lands for surveying purposes, they are also required to give notice and be responsible for any damage they may cause. We encourage all surveyors to adhere to the law and make reasonable efforts to contact owners.

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CS-14) Right-of-Way - Federal, State and County Highways

We also have copies of most of the Right-Of-Way plans for Federal, State Highways, and County State Aid Highways (The CSAH plans are in the process of being digitized). County Right-Of-Way plats, prepared for acquisition purposes, are at the County Recorder's Office. Most are also available digitally through our office.

Our Highway Division will not monument our right-of-way plats until after all construction is complete. Such monumentation work can only, of course, be done when the crews are not busy with pre-construction surveys and/or construction staking. We also have prints of most of the right-of-way plans for State & Federal Highways within the County. Since these are rolled plans they are difficult to copy, so we encourage researchers to contact MnDOT's Central Office is St. Paul (try 951-296-1138) for your area of interest. MnDOT usually will also honor requests for documents whereby they acquired their right-of-way.

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CS-15) Railroad Right-of-Way

We also have Railroad Right-Of-Way maps for the "Main Line" as well as the discontinued* "Princeton Branch". As to the "Main Line" we have a history on that, which also gives the surveyor information as to how to correctly restore those right-of-way boundaries. . To view these records, contact Public Works, or click here to view "RR Memo" on this web site.

*The discontinued "Princeton Branch" right-of-way has been largely sold to adjoining owners. The County has since acquired however the few remaining tracts, and our Parks Commission intends to acquire more as part of their trail system. To that end, in 2001, they commissioned a private survey firm to restore and monument the rights-of-way in T. 34, R. 26 (Livonia Twp.) from the south line thereof north to the east-west quarter line of Section 16. We have hard copies of these surveys as well as digital.

To view these records, contact Public Works at the Government Center. Limited copying is possible.

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CS-16) Additional Railroad Right-of-Way and Station Maps

This is also the proper place to discuss the surveying of the rights-of-way of the railroad's "main line" through the County. The original "main line" through the county was the Great Northern Rwy. ("GN") with a right-of-way of 50 feet on each side. This original centerline is now the eastbound track where double tracked and where single tracked* between Becker and Big Lake.

*Except at each end where going from single to double, and vice versa, where the original alignment varies somewhat to provide a smooth transition. For alignment, use the tangent sections either side of this transition area.

Later, the Northern Pacific Rwy. ("NP") came along and bought 43-feet of right-of-way from the GN and also acquired another 25 feet from adjoining owners to the north. This made the total right-of-way to be 125-feet except where it may be (usually) wider through towns. This placed the division line between railroads at 7-feet northerly of the GN which remained the division line until merger in the Burlington Northern ("BN") in 1970. Since the NP was "junior" to the GN, whenever the spacing between tracks needed to be increased due to higher speeds and larger cars, it was up to the NP to move their tracks. Thus the GN (now the BN's eastbound) is the "control" for establishing both rights-of-way. Thus, to lay out the rights-of-way, one usually measures 50-feet to the south and 75-feet to the north from said eastbound track. There are exceptions through towns where the rights-of-way varied (usually wider) to allow for sidings, depots, and the like. Also, be aware that the railroad through Elk River and Clear Lake is on curve and thus calls for further research as to the location of the original centerline. For instance, in downtown Elk River neither the eastbound nor the west bound are near their original alignments.

In addition to the above discussed right-of-way maps, the railroads also had more detailed "Station Maps" (at larger scales) for within these towns. The County does not now have copies of each of these Station Maps, but we have requested them from the BN (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or "BNSF" in Ft. Worth Texas).

Another source of historic railroad maps is the Minnesota Historical Society ("MnHS") in St. Paul. Some years ago, the railroads donated old mapping and other documentation to MnHS. For instance, there was a spur line off of the main line beginning at Proctor Ave. in Elk River and running SW'ly to the area of the dam on the Elk River in the NE - SW of Sec. 33. A number of legal descriptions in the area were dependent on the right-of-way of that spur, however the tracks were removed in about 1918. GN mapping from MnHS was used to restore that right-of-way. A visit to the Society in St. Paul is necessary to view and request copies of any of this mapping.

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Highway Division, Public Works Department:

H-1) Right-Of-Way plans for County and County State Aid Highways

The Highway Division of Public Works has the original Right-Of-Way plans for County State Aid Highways (The CSAH plans are in the process of being digitized). County Right-Of-Way plats, prepared for acquisition purposes, are at the County Recorder's Office. Most are also available digitally through our office.

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H-2) Other County Highway/Road information:

Although we have maps depicting the normal right-of-way widths for each highway, the researcher is encouraged to inquire further when in doubt. Most rights-of-way, other than for CSAH highways, are simply "user roads" and thus at a width of 33 feet on each side of the centerline of travel. When the centerline of travel is not along, but is "close" to a section or "40" line, individual judgement on the part of each surveyor as to which line to use, is important. Also easement descriptions prepared prior to our acquiring right-of-way by platting may, or may not, be recorded. If not recorded, they may be in files for that highway at the Highway Division's Office on Jackson Ave. in downtown Elk River. Also, easement descriptions prior to about 1992 were often written so poorly as to be of little value if not downright misleading. The prior Highway Department surveyors were however usually quite responsible in monumenting (at least) the PI's of the curves. If in doubt as to the correct location of centerline, consult with Public Works beginning with our Surveyor's Office.

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Other offices at Government Center:

County Recorder, Registrar of Titles:

CR-1) Plats, Registered Land Surveys, "C.I.C." (Condominium), and Right-Of-Way plats

These are available at the County Recorder's office, Government Center, for viewing and limited copying. Also plats have been scanned by the Recorder and will become available digitally. Contact the Recorder's Office for copies.

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CR-2) Deeds, etc:

All deeds, etc., as well as torrens Certificates of Title are available through the Recorder/Registrar. The Registrar also has copies of most of the Certificates of Survey for torrens properties where the Courts set boundaries and, in most cases, Judicial Landmarks ("JLM's") were set. Contact the Registrar's Office for availability of these for copying. Some copies are missing and, as these are identified, we are trying to obtain copies from those surveyors. It is also out intent to make copies of all such torrens surveys for "back up" purposes here in the Surveyor's Office.

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County Auditor:

CA-1) County Ditches:

Maps of the individual County Ditches are kept at the County Auditor's Office. Contact Auditor's Office personnel to view these. We are in the process of identifying these and adding as a layer to our GIS, and some copies of these are also at the Surveyor's Office.

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CA-2) Town Road Orders:

The original Town Road Orders and kept at the County Auditor's Office. There are a series of maps, by Township, showing locations and indexing numbers. Individual "TRO's" are kept in boxes. In general, TRO's were prepared only during the late 1800's and early 1900's and neglected since then. Contact Auditor's Office personnel to view and copy the maps they do have. It may be necessary for the researcher to contact a township to see their files on some roads.

In the early 1970's many townships went through a process to identify widths and describe their roads. Those townships that did so usually recorded the documentation at the Recorders Office.

Future projects are to obtain copies of this mapping and place these as a layer within our GIS.

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County Assessor:

AS-1) Tax descriptions:

Are available via computer (AS400 system) with workstations available to the public at the front counters of the Assessor, Recorder, and Auditor/Treasurer's Office. Contact personnel at these offices for viewing and copies.

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AS-2) Surveys:

The assessor's office maintains files of surveys that they have collected over the years. Contact Surveyor's Office personnel for access and copies of these.

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Planning & Zoning:

PZ-1) Preliminary, Final Plats, and Administrative Subdivisions

"P&Z" maintains files of Preliminary, Final Plats, and Administrative Subdivisions for subdivisions within the Townships. Similar files should be available within the cities, contact the respective city for that information. They have also accumulated copies of Surveys furnished as part of Building Permit applications. Contact Planning & Zoning for viewing these. Limited copying may be available.

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Court Administration ( f. k a. "Clerk of Courts" )

CA_1) Surveys involved in Quiet Title or Torrens actions

"Courts" may have copies of surveys involved in Quiet Title or Torrens actions. However, none are filed by legal description. To access these you will need one or more of the following: Name of Petitioner, name of Defendant, or Case number. An approximate date (the year) would also help. Since 1984 all records have been entered on computer and no indexes other than the above names and case numbers are maintained.

Between 1944 and 1984, the cases have been microfilmed. Microfilming is done 11 years after the closing of that file. Once microfilmed, the originals have been destroyed*. If there is a poor original (usually blue line prints), the microfilm will also be poor.

*The Court Administrator has notified the microfilming company to return any surveys which will then be sent to the Surveyor's Office for our records. This will begin with the 1991 case files that will be microfilmed in 2002.

Between 1944 and 1984 the case indexes were hand written and are still available at the Administrator's Office. All cases before 1944 have been turned over to State Archives, however the name indexes remain in the Court Administrator's Office, but they believe that State Archives has also indexed each county's files too.

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Public Works Contact:

Sherburne County Govt Center
ATTN: Public Works
13880 Business Center Dr NW
Elk River, MN 55330-1692

Office Location & Hours

Phone: 763-765-3300
800-594-5208
Fax: 763-765-3301

publicworks@co.sherburne.mn.us
Contact Sherburne County with your questions, comments and feedback