Using historical survey records of the U.S. General Land Office (GLO), we reconstructed the general structure and distributional patterns of plant communities that existed over 150 years ago in the region around Lake Pepin of the Upper Mississippi River. Computer generated maps now identify the location and extent of former prairies, swamps, marshes, lakes, ponds, and timberlands (see figure). Analyses of GLO bearing tree records are providing clear pictures of the types of trees common to islands, floodplains, terraces, and uplands. Even the distances that surveyors measured to obtain bearing trees at section corners are generating valuable details about the former extent of savannas, woodlands, and closed-canopy forests. Visualizing the landscape: In 1850, the Lake Pepin region had a diverse and complex assemblage of natural plant communities. General Land Office surveyors passed through taligrass prairies, scrubby brush lands, oak savannas, oak hickory groves, wet marshlands, mesic maple basswood forests, and lowland forests. They also had to cross many streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers - but this task was never more difficult than where the Chippewa River Delta meets the Mississippi River at the southern end of Lake Pepin. It was here that a myriad of sloughs, side channels, and streams crisscrossed the low-lands like capillaries flowing through several types of forest and marshland. In contrast, the uplands around Lake Pepin were described as hilly and sometimes very rugged. Deep ravines dissected the landscape and here surveyors noted the presence of springs that contained trout - a fish found only in the purest waters.