About the RMCRS

The Rocky Mountain Coordinate Reference System is based on a group of low distortion map projection coordinate systems. Low distortion projections are based on true conformal map projections designed to cover significant portions of urban and rural areas of the state.  The term ‘low distortion’ refers to both the horizontal distortion from presenting a curved surface on a plane and the vertical distortion because these projections are also scaled to a regional height representative of the area to be covered.  The advantages of a low distortion projection are;

  • Grid coordinate zone distances closely match the same distance measured on the ground.
  • Limited distortion and reduced convergence angle.
  • Easy to transform between other coordinate zone systems.
  • Maintains a relationship to the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS).
  • Can cover entire cities, reservations, and counties making them GIS friendly.


The utilization of electronic survey data by surveyors and GIS professionals is bringing awareness of the need to better deal with measurements on the earth and their representation in databases and on paper.   Modern GIS and surveying software now brings the opportunity to create low distortion map projections and coordinate systems that can relate closely to measured distances on the ground.  The function of low distortion projections is to minimize the distortions of angles, azimuths, distances, and areas.  These distortions are ever present as we live on a spheroid and it is impossible to represent a curved surface on a plane.   We must account for that distortion by creating a mathematical model map projection that will allow us to work in a coordinate grid where calculated positions and distances are represented closely by the same positions and distances we measure on the ground.  For GIS professionals, low distortion projections may now demonstrate that ‘rubber-sheeting’ data sets to make things fit is no longer necessary.  Both survey and GIS data can co-exist without either dataset being degraded.

The Rocky Mountain Tribal system is based on work done by the Oregon Technical Development Team.  The Oregon group blazed the trail and shared information freely.  Without their leadership, guidance, and templates we would not have known where to begin.

Legal Status

Nothing in any Bill requires the use of the Rocky Mountain Coordinate Reference System.

RMCRS Zone Maps

Below are links to the current RMCRS zone maps and coordinate definitions:

Montana State Plane Distortion Map

Below is a link to the Montana State Plane Distortion Map

Montana SPC Distortion Map

RMCRS Zone Export (Parameters)

Trimble – custom.csd – The current custom.csd is for Trimble’s Coordinate System Manager program; see the README file for instructions.

GIS Projection (.prj) Files

Projections are embedded into ArcGIS 10.4.1 and newer versions.

Individual Zones:

Foot Definitions – Montana
*Montana – International Foot
*Wyoming – US Foot

Metric Definitions

Workshops & Presentations

2017 MARLS Conference – Bozeman, MT
Ground Truth: Optimized Design of Low Distortion Projections
Presented by Michael L. Dennis, RLS, PE

RMCRS Handbook & User Guide

Use this link to access the RMCRS Handbook & User Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

A link to an upcoming FAQ page will be provided in this section.

RMCRS Contacts

Michael Dennis, RLS, PE
[email protected]
(928) 322‐0956

Wallace J. Gladstone, PE, LS, CFedS
Business Unit Leader
1301 Division Street, Billings Montana 59101
Direct 406-206-5199  Cell 406-794-1893