Mapping your Property

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We’ve been getting some more rain around the state recently, and hopefully snow is right around the corner.  So think of this blog post as what to do on a rainy day when you are stuck inside.  Think of this “down time” as an opportunity to organize your upcoming plans for your woodland, and put a timeline in place for the coming year.  A good starting point to do that (if you haven’t done it already) is to create a map of your property that lays out all the features and captures your plans for any future activities.  There are a lot of good online resources to help you do that, but this month, I’d like to spend a little time focused on one online resource, and describe how it is useful to you.  The website is DNR Webview ( which is an online mapping tool where you can find aerial photos, topographic maps, and much more information.

I would highly recommend starting on this website by playing around with the various tools, legends and map layers.  There is a lot of information on this website, and if you start by looking for a specific piece of information, you may find yourself frustrated.  Besides, it is kind of fun to look at your property through various views, and to see how it has changed over time.  By the way, there are several ways to find your property on this site: 1) You can zoom in on the map until you reach your property, 2) You can use the “find location” tab to enter an address, or 3) You can enter the legal description of your property.

There are practical reasons for using this website, too.  The maps and information can be helpful for hunting location information, trail or road building, and project planning.  The website can measure distances, measure area, give you GPS coordinates, and find a legal description.

If you are interested in creating wildlife habitat, start by checking out the landscape around your property.  Is there a source of water (lake, river, creek) in the vicinity around your property?  Is there contiguous forest connected to your property and beyond?  Or is your property primarily surrounded by agricultural field?  Understanding your property in the context of what surrounds it will narrow or expand what wildlife you can expect.

aerial photo

Once you recognize the landscape perspective, then you can look within your own property.  Printing an aerial photo, you can start to draw your habitat project boundaries.  Where do you want to do some management for edge species (those that prefer the boundary between field and forest)?  Where might you want to plant some trees or forage for wildlife?  The potential projects are vast, but printing a map and adding project boundaries and a timeline can get you started.  You can also get the coordinates of an ideal hunting spot, if you identify one as you are looking at your aerial photo online.  For more information on using maps in your wildlife habitat plans, check out the publication Putting Pen To Paper.

If you are interested in creating recreational trails (or roads) on your property, this website has some useful tools for that too.  Again, printing both an aerial photo and a topographic map of your property will be beneficial.  You can start by marking points or areas of interest on your aerial photo.  Are there scenic overlooks, wildlife trees, historical points of interest, or hunting spots that you would want to include on your trail system?  When you start to connect the points of interest, check the topographic map.  You may want to make sure your trail winds its way along or around big hills (to prevent erosion and exhaustion).  You can also check out the soils mapping site (below) to check the soil types on your land to ensure you don’t place a summer walking trail across a boggy area that could be wet all spring.  Finally, Webview allows you to draw your potential trail system, and measure its length.  For more information on using maps in trail planning, check out the publication Recreational Forest Trails: Plan for success.

As I mentioned above, there are some additional mapping websites you may want to visit.  If you are planning a trail or interested in planting trees, it would be useful to know the soil type on your property.  You can visit the NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) soil website: for site specific soil types.  If the Webview website is too much for you, aerial views of you property are also available from Google Earth or Google Maps.  There aren’t as many bells and whistles, but if all you want is an aerial photo, you can start there.

So go ahead, sit down with a cup of coffee (or beer) on that rainy day, and explore your property.  Now is the time to line up your woodland projects for the coming year.  Pretty soon we are going to be talking about taxes; it will be to your advantage to have those projects planned so you know what might be deductible in the coming year.