Little-known office at DNR aids landowners, local governments

1864 land survey of Puyallup
An 1864 land survey shows what is now central Puyallup. Image: DNR

A not-widely-known office at DNR is saving money and reducing hassles for local governments, landowners and businesses across Washington State. The Public Land Survey Office (formerly, the Bureau of Surveys and Maps), has been collecting land survey records since its inception in 1951. Our collection of these historic pieces of information gives landowners another place to turn when trying to define their property boundaries. In addition to helping people avoid costly additional surveys — sometimes, even court cases — the Office takes on the cost of preserving and storing these public records and making them available to the public.

Before 1951, when the legislation created the Bureau of Surveys and Maps, land surveyors filed a copy of their surveys with the county engineer or a local title company, but the maps and records were usually kept by the surveyor. This was common practice until 1973 when the Survey Recording Act required land surveys to be recorded at the county auditor’s office.

The Public Land Survey Office continues to collect pre-Survey Recording Act records from surveyors who are retired or from their family members. By accepting these records, the Office has found historical survey records from old project files dating back more than a century.

Search the Public Land Survey Office’s historical indexes, which date back to Washington statehood in 1889.

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