White Cloud and the 40th Parallel

This year we finish our trek across Kansas at the small historic river town of White Cloud. Interestingly, just 2.6 miles north of White Cloud on a bluff above K-7 Highway stands a 6-foot high 500 pound cast iron monument marking the beginning of the historic survey of the 40th Parallel. This site has been placed on the National Historic Register.

A Government Land Office survey led by John P. Johnson set this point (by astronomic observation and calculation) on a bluff high above the Missouri River in 1854. They proceeded to "chain" 108 miles west to establish the initial point on the 6th Principal Meridian. If you live in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming or parts of South Dakota, the deed to your property is described from the baseline beginning at this monument. In 1855 Charles Manners was hired to check Johnson's work and found it to be "grossly in error." Manners found that although Johnson had set the beginning point correctly, by the time he chained 108 miles west, he was about 2.2 miles south of the 40th Parallel. Manners corrected the baseline and it was eventually extended to the Colorado-Utah state line making it the longest baseline in the United States.

It only takes about 3 minutes to drive north of White Cloud on K-7 to the "End K-7" road sign at the Nebraska state line. There is no sign designating the monument so look for a small wooden foot bridge on the left side of the road. A foot trail wonders about 600 feet through oak, ash and shellbark hickory timber to the monument on top of the river bluff.

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