Baseline-Meridian State Park



Saturday’s ride took me as close as I could get to a place where one straight line intersects another in two places. And yes, this is with normal Euclidean geometry. It’s the place where the surveyor’s baseline which goes across lower Michigan from east to west is crossed by the Michigan meridian. These two lines “govern” the remaining survey of Michigan into townships and sections.


On this Royce map I’ve marked the two with thin red lines to make them stand out a little better. One can see how the numbering of townships and ranges starts from the zero point where the lines cross, which is at a place roughly between Mason and Jackson. That point was my Saturday destination.

Or rather, those two points were my Saturday destination.

View 2009 Spokesrider rides in a larger map

The reason I say two is because the east and west segments of the baseline don’t quite match up. They miss each other by about 920 feet (as measured by google map). Here I’ve marked the baseline in yellow. The line from the east takes a big jog to the south along the meridian, and then proceeds west. (My route for the day is shown in brown. The spot where the above photo was taken is shown by a blue pushpin. The two points of intersection are shown by blue balloon-shaped markers.)

BTW, I don’t know that surveyors say the baseline intersects the meridian at two points. It’s just my own way of talking.

One might think it’s like like two crews carving a tunnel out of a mountain, each starting from a different side and not quite meeting up in the middle. But I’m pretty sure the sequence of events was not anything like that. The wikipedia article on the Michigan Meridian has information about the two surveys, but I’m not sure it’s as simple as it describes, either. My impression is that the surveys took place over an extended period of time, and the lines were extended as needed to conduct the surveys of range and township lines. But exactly how this jog came about, I don’t know.

However it came about, I wanted to go as near as I could get to the two locations. I knew I couldn’t go right to the very spot(s), even though there is a state park that encompasses both locations. None of the section line roads goes to either of the two points, nor does any other road go there. The Michigan DNR web describes it very briefly:

This unique, landlocked park designates the spot where all township, range and section measurements begins for the entire state of Michigan. It is not accessible to the public, but is being preserved for its historic value.

On the web site there is a photo of a marker. From the latitude-longitude information it looks like it’s on the northern-most of the two points.

On my way I wished I had scrutinized the google-map satellite view more closely to see if there was a dirt road or anything leading to the spot. I didn’t expect to be able to ride on it, but maybe there would be a gate to bar access, and I could at least take a photo of that. But I hadn’t done that much preparation. And I came to realize that in the short amount of daylight available I wouldn’t have time to ride on both of the north-south roads that lie closest to the marker. So I had to decide which of the two to try.

On the east side is Meridian Road, which sounded promising. It’s appropriately named, but it doesn’t exactly follow the meridian at all points. And this is one of the places where it doesn’t. But my map showed a small stream between Meridian Road and the actual meridian. It wasn’t likely that there would be a bridge over it out in the middle of nowhere, I guessed.

On the west side was Cooper Road. I decided to try that one. I rode down it from the north, examining the roadside to the east for a likely-looking lane. But I got to the Jackson County line without seeing one. (The county line coincides with the baseline.) So I took the above photo in what light remained, and headed back to Leslie where Myra came to get me.

After I got home I studied the google satellite view and found a likely-looking farm lane that leads back to one of the two intersection points, though not by a straight line. What it looks like on the ground where it meets Cooper Road, I don’t know. I had ridden past it without noticing.

Mileage for the day: 60.0 (While waiting for Myra I made a few laps in the Felpausch parking lot to get over the 60-mile mark.)

YTD mileage: 2156.0

[typo correction 15-mar-2015]

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  • relevart2001

    Visited the monuments on 11-13-2010. there is unmarked public access off Meridian. Only about 60′ wide, easily missed. Visited both markers. Is a bridge over the creek, (also a fallen log nearby). A landowner says the bridge is on private property, the DNR map shows it’s state land.

  • Spokesrider

    I didn’t go to the Meridian side that time. I think I can see a trace on the Google Map that starts about 300 feet north of where the residential driveway meets the road. Is that it? Let us know if you post photos anywhere.

  • AnnieCole

    Were you able to pinpoint the ‘intersection’ to a city? I think it would be either Leslie or Pleasant Lake?

  • Spokesrider

    It’s out in the country between Leslie and Pleasant Lake – a little closer to Pleasant Lake.,-84.357576&spn=0.048152,0.132093&t=m&z=14

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