Since I list and sell land parcels in Arizona. I am often asked why the development occurs in a checkerboard pattern. When the railroads were being developed, the railroads were given twelve square miles of land for each mile of track that was laid. The railroads were not given the land in contiguous tracts, but were given odd numbered sections only. This checkerboard land pattern of land use exists in many western states. In Arizona, at least in some areas, the remaining land eventually was given to the Arizona State Land Trust and was for the benefit of our school systems.

The map below shows the town of Chino Valley and land on the west edge of the map known as Williamson Valley. Williamson Valley road runs through this starting at Iron Springs Road in Prescott.

Checkerboard Land Pattern, Williamson Valley near Prescott


I need to describe the color codes on this map since there is no legend on it. Each numbered square is one square mile or one section. Using the lower right corner, showing “Williamson Valley,” the Township is six miles by six miles and is T15N R2W. This township contains a darker green is Granite Mountain and is now designated as a National Monument. It is within the boundaries of The Prescott National Forest which is shown by the lighter green squares. The bright yellow color shows land that is in private ownership. The light blue is Arizona State Trust Lands. The large red numbers and the bold red lines mark the Assessor’s Book numbers which are the first three digits of an Assessor’s parcel number. If you know an assessor’s book number, you can tell where it is by the use of the full map from which this image was taken.

The Arizona State Trust Lands are typically leased to cattle ranchers who graze their cattle there. Most of the lease income from these lands are supposed to go to schools, although I believe some of these monies have been diverted for other uses.

In the areas with the checkerboard pattern still intact, the public land provides around 50% open space. Much of the privately held land, which was originally held by the railroads, has been developed.

The Prescott area is blessed with a wealth of public lands which enhance our lives by providing open space for recreational enjoyment. The downside of this is that the scarcity of private land makes the land more precious and therefore more valuable.