Four Corners marker 21/2 miles off? Too late

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  • bndysurveyor
    Dec. 23, 2009 7:27 p.m.

    As a licensed land surveyor (active status) from the northwest. The various questions, concerns and comments on this article are very similar to those among the professional land surveyors on survey trade specific websites who are the experts in the field of Boundary Determination. May I say even more so than attorneys, bar those well experienced in property boundary. I must concur with William J Wilson, PLS with his 4 comments, and would like to deviate on the first and last comments. He is correct on getting all the facts first before making a determination, but I would like to insert that surveyors like doctors make preliminary observations before they get the lab test in. On the accuracy of "handheld" GPS receivers, in my actual field test my handheld varied in distance from 14' to 21' from the actual point. A Trimble survey quality Gps unit was occupying the point. (Survey quality is accuracy within 1/16" horizontal and 1/2" vertically, generally, determinate on instruments and conditions.) Lastly unless you ARE a surveyor do not use GPS to locate your corners. The last 2 individuals I testified against as an expert witness in court, LOST.

  • Dan
    Aug. 19, 2009 3:34 p.m.

    My property used to border BLM land in Western Colorado. BLM auctioned the property, and the purchasor had a GPS survey done and found that my north fence (which has been there for over 100 years) was acually 110 feet too far to the north, and he proceeded to move the fence that far onto my pasture, therefore removing over two acres from my property. Lawyers all say the same thing, you can't adverse posession against the government, so I would loose in court. Even though it was the government who surveyed the area in the late 1800's. Is there anything in this Four Corners dispute that would help me on my behalf to fight this take over of my property?

  • Montano Rugebregt
    May 31, 2009 10:38 p.m.

    Surveying is all about trying to be the most accurate as possible at location positions on the Earth surface. For that reason technology is driven by that demand. If it has been discovered that the Four Corner monument location is incorrect fix it. Do we just stick our heads in the ground and ignore it? if we now know it is in the wrong location do we just stand there and not fix it? If we know that is property boundary is wrong do we just leave it? No! we fix it! That is what integrity stands for for all our fellow land surveyors. When we place a mark, it has a value that will hold in court. So let's fix it and stand for our profession! 2.5 miles is not acceptable!

  • William J Wilson, PLS
    April 29, 2009 2:06 p.m.

    First off, if you are a Licensed Land Surveyor, you should know better than making boundary determinations without all of the facts, or even making emphatic statements as to what does and does not hold in boundary determinations.
    Secondly, County Surveyors do not have the authority to say if the State corner is correct or not, that lies with the individual State Governments and the Federal Government.
    Thirdly, no matter who you are, you should not put so much reliance in any online map software/database i.e. Google Earth, or Google Maps (GIS: Graphic Information Systems), to make calculations or determinations as to True Locations. This data (while usually accurate for geocaching) has been, for the most part, compiled by computer programmers and database managers, NOT Land Surveyors.
    Finally, I noticed a comment about GPS receivers being accurate to 2 Meters (6.6 Feet). Unless you have a Survey Grade GPS(sub-centimeter accuracy), your position may be off even more than that. I have seen some Hand held GPS devices that say accurate to 10 Meters (30 feet more or less) Hand held GPS are what are referred to as Mapping Grade just like Google Maps.

  • Harvey Hub Hammerer
    April 29, 2009 11:25 a.m.

    It is where it is, not where it should have been.

    April 28, 2009 4:03 p.m.

    It's in the middle of the desert! If it's only off a little, does it really matter?

  • Orem land grabber
    April 27, 2009 2:56 p.m.

    I know folks who lost half their backyard to a greedy neighbor in Orem who discovered the lot boundaries were not correctly recorded after the original home owner agreed with the original neighbor to an exchange of land for helping him finish his basement.

    See the Google map street view of 278 W 765 South.
    The west side of this lot was extended 15 feet, taking out over half of the backyard of the home at 754 S 300 W.

    The new owner of the 765S home tried to shake down the owners on 300W for money to keep their backyard, but they refused and lost their yard, and sold their home at a loss. They also lost thousands hiring a lawyer to defend their 'homesteaded boundries' to no avail. Century 21 who sold them the home didn't even help out.

    Bad blood prevailed from a supposed member of the same church and a university employee. Opportunity knocked, and he chose greed.

  • to: mark
    April 23, 2009 11:44 a.m.

    i agree. 110 years is more than long enough to establish it as common law boundary. to change it, you would need approval of all four states and the us congress

  • Correct Legal Definition
    April 23, 2009 11:38 a.m.

    As Jay Val Loan alluded in his post above, one needs to understand that the current legally recognized Colorado/Utah boundary is based upon the first conducted survey in 1878; not what Congress intended when they originally defined the boundary as the 32nd meridian West of Washington D.C. Present legal Western state boundaries always follow the subsequently surveyed boundary even when inaccurately marked a few miles East or West of the meridian in the Congressional statute.

    As for GPS receiver coordinates, they will always display your location with reference to the Greenwich meridian and it's accuracy is within 2 meters (6.6 feet).

  • GenJLC
    April 23, 2009 9:27 a.m.

    I would like to thank ATR for pointing out my error. For 2 days I have been trying to figure out where the 2.5 mile number came from. Once I reveresed the numbers everything fell into place.

    I Googled the official boundry of all 4 states. I found multiple sites for 3 of them that placed the boundry at 109 3' W, 37 N. If you consider the boundry to be 109 then the marker is off by 2.5 miles.

    So whomever orignally came up with the error did thier math correctly, they just input the wrong border to start with.

  • GenJLC
    April 23, 2009 9:09 a.m.

    ATR is correct. My math was backwards. As the space between degrees vary with Long and Lat; I went to www. .html to determine the exact size at 37 N. I had switched the numbers in my spreedsheet. The revised error makes the original article look even more ridiculous. The marker is 1410 feet east, and 373 feet south of where it should be. An amazing feet; given the technology available to those who sited it. Using the location of the marker given in the article and the official state boundries of 109 3' W, 37 N.

  • Mark
    April 23, 2009 3:30 a.m.

    Don't know much about history,
    Don't know much topography
    But one thing is probably true is that since the border hasn't been disputed for about 110 years it would most likely be ruled by the courts as the true border according to common law border.

  • GCS
    April 22, 2009 11:42 a.m.

    Whether "modern survey methods" are more precise or point to a location somewhere else has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the true location of the corner of the four states. The original monument established by the Government surveyors is the corner and always will be (February 11, 1805 Act of Congress (2 Stat. 313).

  • ATR
    April 22, 2009 10:32 a.m.

    GenJLC, you said "At 37 N a longitudal degrees are 68.9581568525283 miles apart, and latitdual degrees are 55.31 miles apart." I think your math is upside down somewhere. Longitude degrees are smaller than latitude.

  • DNSpindle
    April 22, 2009 12:11 a.m.

    Sorry, I missed the "1"; that was supposed to be 1,826 feet West, if at the same latitude as the current marker OR 1,864 feet from the current marker on a course of 281.5 degrees.

  • DNSpindle
    April 21, 2009 11:40 p.m.

    Using current Google Maps & Google Earth technology it would be placed 826.0 feet WEST of the current marker at 109.051425 W which equals 109 3' 5.13" W; plus or minus any slight difference between the center of the dome of the Old Naval Observatory and the Official Washington Meridian located there at the time of definition. { The 109 2' 48" W and 77 2' 48" W specifications dont match Google technologies elipsoid models. } As has been said this Does Not effect the Legal boundary.

  • Brad
    April 21, 2009 9:12 p.m.

    At this point with our current technology, I would tend to trust an actual land survey more than I would a GPS device. I can stand in the same spot with my GPS and not only mysteriously move several feet in any direction but also rise and fall in elevation.

  • kenlac
    April 21, 2009 6:33 p.m.

    Dear bug: that intends on where you want to get to.

    If you want get to exactly 37N, 109W, then set your GPS for that. You'll end up in a numerically interesting spot that has no borders, intended or accidental. Because it's getting quite clear congress never intended the spot to be exactly on 109W to begin with.

    If you want to get to exactly where congress specified the spot should have been, set you GPS for 37N, 109 2' 48" W. (You'll end up no more than roughly 575 feet from the current monument.)

    If you want to get to where the borders ACTUALLY meet in reality, then simply go to the current monument. Because that's where they legally meet, in spite of everything the larger media has been claiming all day.

  • bug
    April 21, 2009 5:58 p.m.

    if i use my gps to get to four corners where will iend up?

  • wv69roadrunner
    April 21, 2009 5:43 p.m.

    beautiful country and what i saw along route 160 last week is broken glass. the real problem is not where the accepted monument is located but rather where to put it should it become lost or obliterated. when corners are reset surveyors have to rely on written documents or reliable testimony. if the written word directs us to another location, then so be it. protect your original corners and have a professional surveyor check them if you suspect conflicts in your deed description. it will only become more expensive to resolve in the future.

  • Accuracy
    April 21, 2009 4:49 p.m.

    I say that because I own my neighbors true property due to a survey error in the first place....I'm so sneaky.

  • GenJLC
    April 21, 2009 3:04 p.m.

    Cursary research into the offical boundries of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona yeilds a common point of 109 3' W, 37 N. Google Maps shows a GPS marker at 109 2.53866' W, 36 59.71548' N

    That is an error of .46134' W and .28452' N. At 37 N a longitudal degrees are 68.9581568525283 miles apart, and latitdual degrees are 55.31 miles apart.

    This means that the true point is .530219 West, and .411617 miles North of the GPS marker, which pretty much coincides with the established monument.

    In short, the monument may not be exactly correct, it's error, however, should be measured in FEET, not miles.

    The author of this story should apologize for being to lazy to check his facts. Furthermore as this "story" was picked up by MSNBC, the Deseret News needs to retract it and apologize to the American public, before the misinformation spreads any further.

  • Spyder
    April 21, 2009 12:42 p.m.

    Well been there three times first time for free then had to pay can I get my money back as I paid someone for entering land they didn't own? I think 60 minutes or the feds should look into this could be a winfall for us tax payers maybe we will not have to pay taxes for .000000000000001 of a second. leave it alone from a New Hampshire resident.(Live Free or Die State)

  • Important to know
    April 21, 2009 11:28 a.m.

    This is very important, for trivia's sake. the intersections location in relation to the San Juan river changes the answer to an important trivia question.

    What is the only (are the only) rivers that flow into the state of Colorado?

    Answer: The Green and the San Juan (maybe)

    My gauge for where the monument is based on the river not flowing into Arizona, otherwise Arizona would have sued for more water rights on the San Juan. I shouldn't give them ideas...

  • Sue
    April 21, 2009 10:50 a.m.

    Leave it alone. The history is already in place, and why change it? Though we all know about Christopher Columbus, and his discoveries, we aren't going to change all that history; we still teach the same thing to children in schools. Not that the news should not be known, but don't go changing it just because it is off some.

  • Jay Van Loan
    April 21, 2009 7:33 a.m.

    I live on the Colorado/Utah border and have copies of the original boundary line survey conducted by Rollin J. Reeves in 1878. The boundary line between Utah and Colorado was never intended to be on the 109th meridian but on the 32nd meridian west of Washington DC. (w.w. for short.) This puts the correct position about 2 1/2 miles west of the 109th meridian. There is a jog in the boundary line beginning at milepost 85 where the line turns 7 degrees 10 minutes west and runs for 8 miles before turning north again which leaves a strip of land about a mile wide and 200 miles long in Colorado that should have been in Utah. This was verified by US surveyor Allen D, Wilson in 1885 but still stands because the first survey is the binding survey.

  • Re:News and Surveying
    April 21, 2009 7:25 a.m.

    Yeah, let's get MSNBC and CNN in there, they'll take it far to the left.

  • News and Surveying
    April 21, 2009 1:23 a.m.

    The surveying must have been done by Fox News and Deseret News. WAY OFF THE MARK!

  • l
    April 21, 2009 12:55 a.m.

    You think that's crazy, the New York Giants' and New York Jets' home stadium is actually located in New Jersey.

  • kenlac
    April 20, 2009 10:49 p.m.

    I am SUCH a geek, completely fascinated by this mis-reporting!

    Using reed303 and jl-wahl's comments as a starting point, I have drawn the following conclusions and done the math:

    The Washington Meridian in 1868 was defined at the center of the small dome at the Old Naval Observatory. At the time they believed that to be 77 2'48"

    This would mean the intended border was 32 west of THAT position, giving us 109 2' 48"

    The current monument is at 109, 2' 42.62"

    Using the GPS Visualizer webpage, and assuming a slight surveying error in latitude, it is revealed that the current monument is a mere 574 FEET from where Congress intended the location to be.

    Additionally, the "correct" spot is WEST of the current monument, not east.

    Of course, the argument doesn't have to end there, because where they thought the Naval Observatory Dome was in relationship to Greenwich was also off by a bit. But I will leave that to others.

  • CalOldBlue
    April 20, 2009 10:10 p.m.

    Where did that 109 degrees came from? I've googled the heck out of "Colorado" and "border" and so far the only things I find bear out the comments above that it was set at 32 degrees west of the Washington Meridian, which was 77-2-48.0; which puts 4 corners at 109-2-48.0. The article says it was measured at 109-2-42.6, which is a LOT less than 2.5 miles off. So what is it? 109-0-0 or 109-2-42.6???

  • sonofasurveyor
    April 20, 2009 6:42 p.m.

    i work in surveying. if the county surveyor says that is the accepted location that means it wont move and nothing will change. original boundry corners almost always overide what the boundary description says. so no one will change any state lines.

  • David
    April 20, 2009 6:17 p.m.

    Also the article states the true 4 Corners should be "...east of US 160 in Colorado and NE of the San Juan River as it flows into New Mexico." Actually the San Juan River is flowing OUT of New Mexico here. It then takes a short course across the far SW corner of Colorado before entering Utah.

  • Re: Re: Perplexed
    April 20, 2009 5:06 p.m.

    Your reply to "Perplexed" is way off. I live in the four corners region and it is broken glass--not gypsum! There are beer bottles lining ALL the highways through this entire area. You are a little naive.

  • Richard
    April 20, 2009 3:19 p.m.

    If the move things around what is to be done with the lost back taxes? Who would have to register to vote and what of the coming census. Oh what are we little people to do? Heck just turn it all over to the federal government and do away with states, congress the prez know whats best anyway and all these pesky state governments just cause conflict, cost money and confuse the public. Viva the Democratic Socialist Government! They can fix anything - for a price!

  • jl-wahl
    April 20, 2009 3:10 p.m.

    I made an error in my previous post. I gave the longitude for the east boundary of colorado and not the west boundary. The same issue applies as to the actual reference being to the Washington Meridian not Greenwich Meridian.

    - jlw

  • Chris
    April 20, 2009 2:25 p.m.

    For those who care the case to which many are referring is State of New Mexico v. State of Colorado, 267 U.S. 30 (1925). The Supreme Court did decide that the boundaries as adopted by the US and as recognized for over ninety years would remain the same. The dispute was "a suit in equity, within the original jurisdiction of this Court, brought by the State of New Mexico against the State of Colorado, in 1919, to settle a controversy as to the location of their common boundary line. Under the Acts of Congress under which they were admitted into the Union and their respective Constitutions, this is the 37th parallel of north latitude between its intersections with the 103d and 109th meridians of longitude west from Greenwich." So I guess that's another thing the author got wrong. Who would have thought that Wikipedia would be right. :)

  • Floyd
    April 20, 2009 2:13 p.m.

    I visited Four Corners a few years back and if i remember correctly it's located on an Indian Reservation. And to think that the marker is off by 2.5 miles so I guess I was still in Colorado....If this is true, why not move the monument?

  • Luke
    April 20, 2009 2:01 p.m.

    Could you imagine the implications if we went around moving original survey monuments because of improved measuring techniques. Look at the legal description for your property and you will see why. Stability of boundaries is a long standing legal principal. I love how the article says there were surveying errors. I think 2.5 miles was pretty could for 1899. Also, please do not rely on Google Earth for making boundary decisions. Have a professional land surveyor do it.

  • I'm Confused...
    April 20, 2009 2:00 p.m.

    This article left me confused. What does this all mean??? Is the four corners monument not "officially" where the states' borders are? the states' jurisdiction not legally end at where four corners are? Or is this just something that will be disregarded and the monument, although inaccurate, will continue to serve as the border marker?

  • jl-wahl
    April 20, 2009 1:55 p.m.

    There is lots of misinformation in this article.

    The statutory position of the corner is at 37 degrees latitude and 25 degrees longitude west of the Washington Meridian. The Washington Meridian was used for a number of state boundaries and was located at approx 77 degrees 03' 2.3" W of Greenwich. The 4 corners monument is fairly close to the statutory position.

    The position has never shifted. There is a jog in the west boundary of Colorado but it is to the west not east and has nothing to do with any imaginary error at 4 corners.

    There have been several resurveys of the south boundary of Colorado, but all terminate at the same 4 corners monument. That S. boundary of Colorado was adjudicated by the US Supreme Court in 1925 as are all issues relating to state boundaries had no affect on 4 corners.

    Boundaries are first determined in an original survey which are considered binding even if they contain some error once they are accepted by proper authority. Authority for State lines are the US congress, the Supreme Court or both States acting together jointly.

    - jlw

  • reed303
    April 20, 2009 1:14 p.m.

    When the writer says the boundary was to be an "even 109 W", what they missed was the issue of which meridian system those numbers are based on. The Colorado statue says, quote

    "ARTICLE I. Boundaries

    The boundaries of the State of Colorado shall be as follows: Commencing on the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude, where the twenty-fifth meridian of longitude west from Washington crosses the same; thence north, on said meridian, to the forty-first parallel of north latitude; thence along said parallel, west, to the thirty-second meridian of longitude west from Washington; thence south, on said meridian, to the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude; thence along said thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude to the place of beginning.

    Note the words "WASHINGTON meridian", NOT Greenwich. They are about 3 degrees different. Google on "Washington Meridian" and you'll see the issue.

  • Rich in Orem
    April 20, 2009 12:44 p.m.

    I've read in the past that they've had lots of issues with state boundaries over the years. For example, supposedly some or all of the town of Franklin, Idaho, is actually in Utah if you go by the "true" latitude. (Or maybe it's just a few hundred yards off, if you go by Google Maps.) However, as is the case with misplaced fences between properties, the "accepted" boundaries tend over time to become recognized by law.

    (It makes me wonder whether the main road in Freedom, Wyoming actually straddles the Wyoming-Idaho border as it supposedly does.)

  • Re: Perplexed
    April 20, 2009 12:33 p.m.

    I've never been to four corners, but I'm gonna guess that you saw gypsum in the dirt, not glass. It's pretty ubiquitous in the region. Drive through Moab/Arches and you'll see the same thing.
    And as for the marker being off, that's fine. Every boundary in North America shifts by at least a centimeter each year due to plate tectonics anyway. So even if the boundary were brought back to its intended coordinates, it would still be a little over a meter off to the southeast of where it wouldve originally been. That's why survey markers and monuments are so important. They establish a permanent boundary in an environment of imperfect measurement methods and the shifting land itself.

  • Perplexed
    April 20, 2009 10:51 a.m.

    Are the official state boundaries at 37 north and 109 west? I'm confused, because if you get on the Google Earth, it shows the intersection to be in the parking lot of the monument.

    (I rode my motorsickle out there on a HOT late-summer day. It was interesting. The most memorable thing about the trip was the HUGE quantity of discarded bottles and broken glass all along Highway 160, sparkling in the desert sun. I've never seen so much glass litter!)

  • Move it
    April 20, 2009 8:40 a.m.

    If the state of Utah can change all of the mile marker signs on I-15 with new numbers, they can move the four corners.

  • Matt
    April 20, 2009 7:25 a.m.

    Well... I had planned on going but not now. Whats the point if it is wrong.

  • Accuracy
    April 20, 2009 4:22 a.m.

    With time and accuracy of eqipment may find errors like this but still the established markers should remain where they are. Satelite marking should not change established locations on land or property lines as they have been accepted and considered as legal. This accuracy may help future land structure and markings but it shouldn't be used to change established lines.