Legal land descriptions in Canada

Explore the basics of legal land descriptions and how they are used in in Canada.

What is Township Canada?

Township Canada is an intuitive platform for exploring Canadian legal locations, geographic coordinates, and places. It's designed to let you efficiently search legal land descriptions, visualize results on maps, and export data in formats like CSV, KML, Shapefile, DXF, and GeoJSON for easy integration with applications such as Excel, Google Earth, and CAD & GIS software. Our batch conversion tool further streamlines the conversion of multiple legal locations into geographic coordinates and vice versa quickly.

Try it now – it’s free to use, with no credit card required. For more details, visit our pricing page.

How it works

In Canada, legal land descriptions uniquely identify land parcels, based on extensive survey grid networks. Township Canada supports various survey grid systems across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and offshore areas in the east coast, west coast, and Hudson Bay.

Kickstart your experience with Township Canada using our quick-start guides. These guides offer clear, step-by-step instructions and practical examples to ensure you can make the most of our tools and services seamlessly.

The Prairies (AB, SK, MB) and BC's Peace River Region

In these regions, legal land descriptions follow the Dominion Land Survey (DLS) system. Under the DLS system, land is categorized as either west of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Meridians (W1 through W6) or east of the 1st and 2nd Meridians (E1 and E2).

Between these meridians lie six-mile-wide columns referred to as Ranges. Ranges are sequentially numbered from east to west, commencing with Range 1 west of each meridian.

Townships are six-mile-wide rows intersecting these ranges and are sequentially numbered from Township 1 at the Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota border to Township 126 at the Northwest Territories border. The term 'township' also denotes the six-by-six mile square formed by the intersection of ranges and townships.

Townships are further divided into 36 Sections, each measuring one-by-one mile. Sections can be further subdivided into Quarter Sections (NE, NW, SE, SW), or into 16 legal subdivisions (LSDs).

With Township Canada, you can locate legal land descriptions in the Prairies using three formats:

  • Section-Township-Range-Meridian, for example: 25-24-1-W5
  • Quarter Section-Section-Township-Range-Meridian, for example: SW-25-24-1-W5
  • LSD-Section-Township-Range-Meridian, for example: 7-25-24-1-W5

British Columbia

In British Columbia, legal land descriptions are structured using the National Topographic System (NTS). This system segments the land into sections categorized by Map Series (ranging from 82 to 104), Map Areas (labeled A through P), and Map Sheets (numbered 1 to 16).

Each of these sections is divided into 12 distinct Blocks. These Blocks are then broken down into 100 individual Units. Furthermore, each Unit is subdivided into four Quarter Units, designated as A, B, C, and D.

Using Township Canada, you can easily locate legal land descriptions in BC using the following format:

  • QuarterUnit-Unit-Block/MapSeries-MapArea-MapSheet, for example: A-2-F/93-P-8

Manitoba's River/Parish Lots

The River Lot/Parish Lot survey system, predominantly found along Manitoba’s rivers such as the Red and Assiniboine, originates from the historic Seigneurial System of New France. This system characterizes the land distribution primarily along these riverbanks.

With Township Canada, you can easily locate river, wood, and parish lots in Manitoba. Here are some examples:

  • OT-54-BO
  • PL-G-KI
  • RL-103-PA
  • WL-42-PP
  • SL-162
  • LX-2-8-14-E1


In Ontario, the fundamental unit of land subdivision is the Geographic Township. These townships are further segmented into smaller areas called Concessions. Historically, during Ontario's initial settlement in the 19th century, these Concessions were allocated by the Crown to settlers. In return, settlers were required to build houses, clear land, perform roadwork, and provide monetary compensation. These Concessions were then divided into individual Lots. The names of these lots, along with their concessions and townships, collectively form the legal land description of properties in Ontario.

With Township Canada, you can easily locate legal land descriptions in Ontario using the following format:

  • Township, for example: Osprey
  • Concession Township, for example: Con 4 Osprey
  • Lot Concession Township, for example: Lot 2 Con 4 Osprey

Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Canada's Offshore Area

The Federal Government of Canada employs the Federal Permit System (FPS) for survey grids to oversee oil and gas exploration and production on federal lands. This includes areas in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and offshore regions in the Atlantic Ocean near the Maritimes, the Pacific Ocean near British Columbia, and Hudson Bay.

The FPS grid system is organized into Grids, Sections, and Units. These grids are delineated with east and west boundaries at intervals of every 10 minutes of latitude and have a longitudinal width of 15 minutes (for areas south of 70 degrees North) that expands to 30 minutes in regions north of 70 degrees North. Each grid is identified by the longitude and latitude coordinates of its northeast corner. For example, a grid at 60-20 N 100-30 W indicates a location in Nunavut, marked by its northeastern coordinates of 60°20'N and 100°30'W. Within each grid, the land is further organized into numbered sections (ranging from 1 to 99) and lettered units (from A to P).

With Township Canada, you can easily locate FPS-based legal land descriptions using three formats:

  • Grid, for example: 60-20 N 100-30 W
  • Section Grid, for example: 48 60-20 N 100-30 W
  • Unit Section Grid, for example: F 48 60-20 N 100-30 W

Geographic Coordinates and Places

Latitude and Longitude, known collectively as geographic coordinates, are used to specify locations on Earth. Latitude lines, or parallels, run east-west and are parallel to the equator. They measure a location's angle north or south of the equator, from 0° at the equator up to 90°N (+90) or 90°S (-90) at the poles. Longitude lines, or meridians, run from pole to pole in a north-south direction. Longitude measures how far east or west a location is from the prime meridian, which runs through Greenwich, England, with a range from 0° at the prime meridian to 180°E (+180) or 180°W (-180). Specifically in Canada, latitude ranges from approximately 42°N (+42) to 83°N (+83), while longitude spans from about 53°W (-53) to 141°W (-141).

With Township Canada, you can easily map geographic coordinates in Canada using the following formats:

  • Latitude and Longitude using Decimal Degrees, for instance: 51.454928, -114.648933 or -114.648933, 51.454928. These coordinates can be ordered differently and separated by a comma or space.
  • Latitude and Longitude using Degrees, Minutes, and Seconds, such as 51°27'17.7"N 114°38'56.2"W or 50:04:30.6N 112:51:44.3W. In this format, the coordinates are separated only by space, and their order can vary.

Places refer to postal addresses, postal codes, and the names of provinces, cities, neighborhoods, and points of interest. Using Township Canada, you can easily convert place names and addresses into legal land descriptions and geographic coordinates.