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Friday, January 18, 2019

Strange Borders

     The U.S. - Canadian border is over 5,500 miles long and while almost all of Canada is located north of the U.S., you can get to Ontario, Canada by driving due south from Detroit, Michigan. Seems odd, but it's true.
     There's also an odd place up in Wisconsin. If you look at a map, you’ll notice that the Canada–United States border is a straight line from the Pacific to about a third of the way across Minnesota and then it starts to get squiggly. 
     Before Canada was independent the border started getting worked out between the U.S. and Great Britain shortly after the American Revolution and was finally completed over the next few decades. The straight line runs along the 49th parallel. 
     In Minnesota the border was established the from the northwestern-most point of the Lake of the Woods to the head of the Mississippi River. But, it turned out that the source of the Mississippi, because the map they were working with was drawn by doctor and botanist John Mitchell in 1750, wasn't quite right. 
     A survey team went to the area to correct the error and it turned out that there was a little chunk of land belonging to the U.S. that was cut off from the rest of the country. It's known as the Northwest Angle and it hangs off of Manitoba and consists of 596.3 square miles made up of water and 123 square miles of mostly uninhabited land. 

     It's home to a handful of Minnesotans who have the honor of living at the northernmost point of the contiguous U.S. The only way to get there is to drive up through Minnesota to the Canadian border and then cross into Manitoba and go through Canadian customs. It used to be a simple matter, but after 9/11 it's more complicated. 
     After entering Manitoba, you'll drive through a few border towns and continue along several kilometers of unpaved road before crossing another border back into the United States. Here, you’ll need to go through customs again, though it's a little different. A few miles past the border crossing is a place called Jim’s Corner, where you’ll stop, enter a shack and call a U.S. Customs agent. 
     If you don’t want to drive through Canada, you can also reach it by crossing the Lake of the Woods by plane, boat, or, when the lake is frozen over, car. 
     They have the last one-room schoolhouse in the state and one policeman. The area's big attraction is walleye fishing. Back in the 1990s there was a half-serious attempt at secession. 
     Ontario shares a border with Minnesota that runs through the Lake of the Woods and the Canadians let people staying at Angle resorts fish in Canadian waters, but imposed high fees, catch-and-release regulations and required a ton of paperwork. All that could be avoided by staying at one of the Canadian resorts. The result was that Angle businesses took a beating. 
     So, in 1997, a representative from Minnesota proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the residents of the Angle to vote on seceding from the United States and joining Canada. After investigation, a Minneapolis-based attorney determined that the Canadians were violating NAFTA fishing regulations and the Canadians revoked their regulations. By the way, seventy percent of the land is held in trust by the Red Lake Indian Reservation

There are many other strange borders in the world:

Part 1 – Panhandles
Part 2 – Spain 
Part 3 - Enclaves and Exclaves

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