I have several hundred coordinates in an Excel file. I would like to identify the township range and section they are located--what is the easiest way to do this? I have you QGIS and basic GIS skills (i.e. digitizing). I googled my question and came across the following website: http://www.esg.montana.edu/gl/trs-data.html. This allows you to go from TRS to longitude and latitude. I'm thinking GIS would provide the best solution but I'm not sure where to start. I would like to identify actual legal descriptions.

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    Its called reverse geocoding. There are lots of answers on this site about it already - gis.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/reverse-geocoding Please update your question (click edit below the question) to make your question more specific - what you've already looked at, what data you have, what tools you have, what you've already tried, why the existing answers aren't applicable to your situation, and anything else that will allow us to provide a useful answer for your specific issue.
    – BradHards
    Feb 15, 2014 at 0:30
  • I went ahead and followed klewis' answer which served me well.I did come across one issue however: one of the coordinates falls just barely outside of one of the sections. Accordingly, no TRS can be assigned following the intersect. The coordinate falls near the section border with the lower Columbia river. According to aerial imagery it falls about 100m from the shoreline of the Columbia.I would consider this a fluid border in the sense that the river rises and falls along the low gradient shoreline. My datums and CRS are the same from the two intersected layers. What can I check to rule out?
    – Oregonian
    Feb 17, 2014 at 2:39
  • Try asking that last Q over at surveyorconnect.com -- many land surveyors are there who can help.
    – Martin F
    Feb 17, 2014 at 23:31
  • When you say "identify actual legal descriptions", based on the acceptance of the answer it appears you just want to locate their TRS. If you want to actually PLOT them, assuming a metes and bounds format, you could refer to related questions here and here.
    – Chris W
    May 24, 2014 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


I recommend mapping the XY coordinates using QGIS. This will create a Point shapefile. There are many posts about how to do this. Next, if don't have the landgrid shapefile containing Township/Range/Section data, it should be easy to find on the Internet, search for "State Name" GIS data. Finally, Intersect the two shapefiles using QGIS. Each Point should now have Township/Range/Section attributes.

EDIT, if some Points do not Intersect the TRS Polygons, you can try the Hub Distance tool in MMQGIS plugin to attribute the Null TRS attribute. This tool adds a distance and a user defined Attribute. Closest Polygon

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