Square mile plot in Oklahoma
Square-mile plot in Oklahoma (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)

If you've ever flown in a plane across the United States, you probably noticed the strangely perfect arrangements of rural farmlands and suburban neighborhoods distributed in even square-mile plots throughout the country.

These mesmerizing blocks of land were first mapped out in the late 18th century as part of the Jefferson Grid, and they have shaped the growth of the United States ever since.

Square mile plot near Seminole, Texas
Near Seminole, Texas (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)

The Jefferson Grid is actually a nickname for the United State's Public Land Survey System, which was proposed by Thomas Jefferson and enacted in 1785 as a top-down effort to divvy up land among farmers following the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

According to the New York Times, "[Jefferson] proposed to slice the young United States into gridded plots of land that would support his ideal country of 'yeoman farmers' who would form the backbone of American democracy. [...] Today [the] grid covers much of the country, and it is still used to survey federal lands — an idea that shaped the physical landscape of half a continent."

Today with the wonders of satellite photography, it's easy to see the extent of how Jefferson's geographical checkerboard has transformed the country's natural landscapes over time.

Square mile plot near Beatty, Oregon
Near Beatty, Oregon (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)

Inspired by this history and the beauty of aerial imagery, one photographer is now on a mission to find and share the most captivating examples of these square-mile patches on an Instagram account titled "The Jefferson Grid."

To do this, the anonymous curator regularly scours Google Earth in search of "everything that fits in a square mile" — from massive agricultural operations and bustling airports to suburban neighborhoods and even state prisons.

Continue below for some of the most visually arresting square-mile blocks:

Square mile plot near Warren, California
Near Warren, California (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Canyon Lake, California
Canyon Lake, California (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
A square mile plot in Arizona
A square-mile plot in Arizona (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Rotunda West, Florida
Rotunda West, Florida (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Terrestrial compass in California
Terrestrial compass in California (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Square mile plot in Wisconsin
Square-mile plot in Wisconsin (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Southern New Mexico
Southern New Mexico (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Golf course in suburban California
Golf course in suburban California (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Square mile plot of an airport in Southern California
Airport in Southern California (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Square mile plots in Nevada
Square-mile plots in Nevada (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)
Arizona State Prison in Yuma
Arizona State Prison in Yuma (Photo: @the.jefferson.grid/Instagram)

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.