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The above clip is a fascinating, hilarious look at border irregularities between the United States and Canada. As the video explains, the US-Canadian border West of the Great Lakes looks like a straight line, until you look a little closer. In actuality, the line consists of 900 zig-zagging lines, roughly along the 49th Parallel. This was due to the problems with surveying and marking a straight line over such a large span of land in the 19th century.

But there is also a much larger deviation from the norm in Minnesota, where the border juts northward into Canada before settling back down on the 49th parallel and continuing to the West. On closer look, the part of the US that juts into Canada is on the other side of a lake from the rest of the US, and can only be reached by boat or driving through Canada. Below is a drawing of the area:

Map of the Lake of the Woods area.

Why did that corner of land become part of the US and not Canada? It goes back to the 1780’s when the new US government was establishing its boundary with Canada, but the geography of the Western part of the continent was not well known. The map that the British and Americans were using to draw the border of Minnesota had an inset on it which hid the area around the Lake of the Woods. So, as they drew the border coming from the East, they decided that it should end at the northwestern corner of the Lake, wherever that was, and then go West in a straight line from there. They did not realize until much later that the northwestern corner of the Lake was much farther to the north. So, the border travels up to meet that corner, then abruptly dips south again to the 49th parallel and resumes from there. Weird, huh?

There are more fascinating areas discussed in the video, such as Point Roberts, an Oregon town which can only be reached over land through Canada. It’s such a small town that high school students need to cross international borders just to go to school.

The creator of the video clip, by the way, is C.G.P. Grey, and he has a video series dedicated to interesting maps and border curiosities. Check it out on Youtube or at his website: http://www.cgpgrey.com/

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