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The Northwest Angle in Minnesota, bordering Manitoba, Ontario, and Lake of the Woods
The Northwest Angle (top) viewed from space

The Northwest Angle, known simply as the Angle by locals, and coterminous with Angle Township, is a part of northern Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, and is the only place in the United States outside of Alaska that is north of the 49th parallel. That parallel is the northern boundary of the 48 contiguous states extending from the west coast along the northern boundaries of Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and part of Minnesota to the Northwest Angle. The Angle is one of only four non-island locations in the 48 contiguous states not directly connected to them by land, the others being nearby Elm Point, Minnesota; Point Roberts, Washington; and the town of Alburgh, Vermont. All four are located on the Canadian border with the United States.

Farther east, U.S. territory does not extend that far north. Map projections sometimes create a superficial appearance that Maine extends farther north than that; that appearance does not occur in maps in which parallels of latitude are straight lines.

A portion of the Angle is held in trust by the Red Lake Indian Reservation (Ojibwa).

The total population of the Angle was 152 at the 2000 census.

Contents

Origin

The Treaty of Paris, concluded between the United States and Great Britain at the end of the American Revolutionary War, stated that the boundary between U.S. territory and the British possessions to the north would run "...through the Lake of the Woods to the northwestern most point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi..."

The parties did not suspect that the source of the Mississippi, Lake Itasca (then unknown to European explorers), was south of that point, and that thus the entire Mississippi was too far south to be intersected by a line running west from the Lake of the Woods. A factor in this mistake was the use of the Mitchell Map during the treaty negotiations; that map showed the Mississippi extending far to the north. In the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, the error was corrected by having the boundary run directly from the northwest point of the lake to the 49th parallel and then westward along it.

When a survey team led by David Thompson finally located the northwesternmost point of the lake and surveyed this north-south line, it was found to intersect other bays of the lake and therefore cut off a portion of U.S. territory, now known as the Northwest Angle.

Geography

Reporting booth at Jim's Corner. Upon entering the Northwest Angle by road, the traveler must enter the booth and report to U.S. Customs via videophone. Before leaving the Northwest Angle by road, one must report to Canadian customs from the same booth.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Angle Township has a total area of 596.3 square miles (1,544.5 km2) of which 123.09 square miles (318.81 km2) is land and 473.2 square miles (1,225.7 km2) (79.36%) is water. The land includes several islands, including Oak Island, and two small capes that are below (south of) the 49th parallel north in the extreme southwest part of the township, south of the southeast corner of Manitoba, and not far from the northeast corner of Roseau County. Of the 2000 census population of 152, there were 118 living on the mainland, and 34 persons on the islands in Lake of the Woods. All of the populated islands are north of the 49th parallel.

The mainland portion of the township north of the 49th parallel has an area of 116.632 square miles (302.08 km2). The total land area of all islands is 6.303 square miles (16.32 km2), and the two capes total 100 acres (0.16 sq mi; 40.47 ha). The township has the last one-room public school in the state.

Elm Point, in Lake of the Woods County, is a small cape southwest of the Northwest Angle. It borders Canada and may be separated by land from the continental United States.

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Access

The Angle is accessible from the rest of Minnesota by one of two ways:

  • One can reach the angle without crossing the international border by crossing the Lake of the Woods. This can be done by aircraft, by boat when the lake is free of ice, or by ice road in the winter months. Since there are no automobile ferries currently operating on the lake, vehicles coming from the rest of Minnesota can only reach the Angle without crossing the border in winter. While the ice is forming in late autumn and breaking up in the spring the lake's surface cannot be safely crossed - at these times domestic access to the Angle is possible only by air.
  • To reach the Angle overland, one would take Minnesota State Highway 72, across the border into Manitoba, Canada, connecting to Provincial Road 308 in Manitoba at the border, then to Provincial Road 310 (Manitoba), to Provincial Road 311, to Provincial Road 312, passing through the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation and the Northwest Angle 33 First Nation, finally crossing back into the United States in the Northwest Angle south of Angle Inlet Township. The distance from the southern Minnesota border to the Angle is approximately 15 miles (24 km) – over land it is approximately 57 miles (92 km) through Minnesota and Manitoba back to the Angle's U.S. border. It is approximately another 15 miles (24 km) (depending on where one crosses back into the United States) to the town of Angle Inlet Township.

The border crossing (image) is unstaffed. Travelers using the single gravel road in and out the Angle are expected to use a telephone at Jim's Corner to contact Canadian or U.S. Customs and make their declarations.

Politics and popular culture

Due to laws restricting fishing, some residents of the Northwest Angle suggested leaving the United States and joining Canada in 1997. The following year, U.S. Representative Collin Peterson proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the residents of the Northwest Angle, which is part of his district, to vote on seceding from the United States and joining Canada, angering the leaders of Red Lake Indian Reservation, which holds most of the Northwest Angle's land.[1][2] The area is one of several distinct regions of Minnesota.

Author Tim O'Brien popularized knowledge of the location with his bestselling novel, In the Lake of the Woods, set in the Angle.

The Danny Orlis series of books, a Christian fiction series for youth, were largely set in the Northwest Angle.

See also

References

External links

Coordinates: 49°16′N 95°3′W / 49.267°N 95.05°W / 49.267; -95.05


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