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Legal Descriptions

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Colorado uses the Township, Range, and Section method of land measurement and description. The basic unit of this system is the section, which is one mile by one mile square and contains 640 acres. A township contains 36 sections in a 6 by 6 quadrant, measuring 6 miles by 6 miles. Each section must be numbered. In this system, the numbering starts at "1" in the uppermost NE section and proceeds west to section 6, then south one section, which is section 7, then east again to section 12, south one section to section 13, then west again to section 18, and so forth.

section numbers
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Within each section, the land is referred to as half and quarter sections. A one-sixteenth division is called a quarter of a quarter, as in the NW1/4 of the NW1/4. The descriptions are read from the smallest division to the largest.

section divisions
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The townships are organized in rows and township boundaries are marked by township lines running east to west and range lines that run north and south. Townships are identified with respect to a reference latitudinal baseline that is the beginning point for the measurement of north or south townships. For example, Townships 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 North are the townships found in Larimer County, beginning with Township 4 North at the southern boundary of Larimer County. The baseline for Colorado actually forms the southern boundary line for Weld County. All townships south of this line would be designated as Township 1 South, 2 South, etc.

township range example
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The range of a township is determined by east or west measurements from a beginning longitudinal line called the principal meridan. By looking at the example above, you can see that townships north of the base line are termed as "North" or "N", while those south of the base line are deemed "South" or "S". Ranges east of the principal meridian are shown as "East" or "E", while those arrayed to the west, or left of the principal meridian are shown as "West" or "W".

For example, the ranges of Larimer County start at the eastern border of the county with Range 68 West and proceed west until they end with Range 78 West at the county's western border. The principal meridian that is used to measure our ranges is the 3rd Principal Meridian which is in the eastern part of Kansas and Nebraska. Therefore we are west of that principal meridian. To enlarge the map below, click on the map and a new map will appear. Then click on the lower right hand corner of this map and a small square box with arrows will appear. Click on this box and the map will enlarge.

principal meridians and base lines
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Fort Collins encompasses the area that consists of Townships 6, 7, and 8 N and Ranges 68 and 69 West. The legal description for Old Town Fort Collins is "Township 7 North, Range 69 West, Section 12" or "T7N R68W S12." The Tax Assessor Parcel Numbers reflect this legal description. For example, the breakdown for parcel number "34012-21-108" would be:

"3" equals the last number of the "range," thus the range would be "73 West" since the ranges in Larimer County start with 68 West and end with 78 West.

"4" equals the "township number," thus the township is "4 North" since the townships in Larimer County start with 4 North and end with 12 North.

"01" equals the "section number," thus the section number is "1."

"2" equals the "quarter section." There are 4 sections in each section: The northeast quarter section equals "1"; the northwest quarter section equals "2"; the southwest quarter section equals "3"; and the southeast quarter section equals "4." Thus in this parcel number, the property is in the "northwest quarter of section 1."

"21" equals the "rural Area (01-04)" or the "subdivision (05-Up)." Thus this property is in "subdivision 21."

"108" is actually the lot number of the tract of land in this legal location. Thus this is lot number 108 in Subdivision 21 of the northwest quarter of Section 1 in Township 4 North and Range 73 West.

See the Larimer County Tax Assessor's Parcel Locator Map for more information on a particular property.

Please note that each farm and ranch has the parcel number also as its Library Reference Number; however, the 4th set of two or 3 digits has been added to further define each property and building for library cataloging purposes. These are not part of the Tax Assessor Parcel Number. For example, "86010_00_001_76A" is one of the numbers; "86010_00_001" is the original Tax Assessor Parcel Number and "76A" was added for library cataloging purposes.


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