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This Tiny Minnesota Town Is Completely Surrounded by Canada


© / Alamy Stock Photo AM04GP Dock at Lake of the Woods at Zippel Bay State Park Minnesota

By Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler

The northernmost point of the United States is Point Barrow, Alaska, three hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. But where's the northernmost point in the lower 48 states? Decades of misleading map projections might trick many Americans into guessing Maine, but the answer is actually one tiny town in Minnesota. A historical accident way back in 1783 has orphaned it in Canadian territory for over two centuries.
American diplomats look for an angle.

When the United States sat down to negotiate independence from Great Britain after the American Revolution, one of the first orders of business was drawing America's new northern border with British Canada. Negotiators finally agreed that in the west, the new border would run from the northwesternmost point of Lake of the Woods due west to the Mississippi River. But the joke was on them! As explorers soon confirmed, the Mississippi actually begins south of there. There's no way to draw a line west from the corner of the lake to the river!
When maps got more accurate, Minnesota got a tiny little hat.

Following the Louisiana Purchase, a new treaty in 1818 corrected this problem, by running the border due south from Angle Inlet, the northwestern tip of the lake, to the 49th parallel. Unfortunately, this fix created a 26-mile jog in the border, a little "bump" of Minnesota that pokes up into Canada to this day. A smallish peninsula measuring 123 square miles of American soil, Angle Township is now effectively an island, surrounded on all sides by American lake or Canadian woods.
Americans in Angle Township don't live overseas, but they do live "overlake."

Most visitors to the Northwest Angle just come up for the weekend to fish, but about sixty Americans live there full time, mostly working the lodges that cater to tourists. For residents, a trip to the grocery store requires notifying border officials and then driving sixty miles each way through Canada to get to the nearest American town. When a Northwest Angle kid invites friends over for a play date, they need a passport.
The Northwest Angle goes to war to protect its anglers.

International relations are normally pretty civil in this little American enclave, but that all changed during the Great Walleye War of the late 1990s. Due to a trade dispute, Angle Township fishermen weren't allowed to bring back perch they'd caught in the Canadian side of the lake. To bring attention to this fishing-related injustice, the Angle threatened to secede to Canada. Jesse Ventura, the new governor of Minnesota, flexed his political muscles, and the dispute was swiftly resolved under NAFTA in the fishermen's favor. America's little northernmost pimple remains American.

Explore the world's oddities every week with Ken Jennings, and check out his book Maphead for more geography trivia.


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Travel - U.S. Daily News: This Tiny Minnesota Town Is Completely Surrounded by Canada
This Tiny Minnesota Town Is Completely Surrounded by Canada
Travel - U.S. Daily News
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