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Above: One of the best experiences of my trip so far was visiting the northernmost point of the contiguous United States, in a place called the Northwest Angle of northern Minnesota.  Paul Colson, the friendly owner of Jake's Resort, kindly offered to take me out there. (3:05)
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The northernmost point of the contiguous United States is in the Northwest Angle, a geographic oddity located in northern Minnesota, though surrounded by Canada.  The only way to reach the Northwest Angle by land is to leave Minnesota and drive into Manitoba, Canada, then drive about 50 miles north through Canada, and then re-enter the United States at the boundary of the Northwest Angle. The Northwest Angle is a rural area surrounded on three sides by the Lake of the Woods and has a year-round population of about 200 hardy Americans.

I drove into the Northwest Angle on a cloudy afternoon in mid-September, walked into the office of Jake's Resort in the village of Angle Inlet, and asked the owner, a friendly guy named Paul Colson (a grandson of Jake's) if I could rent a motorboat.  Paul looked at me and said with a smile, "Most everyone here brings their own boat, so I bet you want to do one of two things.  You either want to go to the northernmost point of the U.S. or ..."  I cut him off immediately, "Yep, you guessed it." Paul told me that a few people come up every year telling him they want to visit the northernmost point of the U.S.

I asked Paul if I could rent one of his boats to reach the northernmost point and he replied, "Well, I don't want to let you rent one because there are lots of weeds in the water up there, and my engine could get fouled and then you'd be stuck."  I was dejected, having driven several hours from Minnesota to get here.  But then he said, "I tell you what, though.  I'll take you up there myself. Meet me here tomorrow morning and we'll go up there."  I brightened up immediately.

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Above: As we sat in Paul's boat on the northernmost point of the contiguous United States, he explained to me the history of the Northwest Angle. It was the perfect classroom. (1:42)
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That night I camped at their campground, then the next morning I ambled over to the office.  The weather was gray and drippy -- more of a mist than rain -- and Paul and I hopped in his boat and we headed out.  We zipped across the calm waters of Lake of the Woods without seeing another boat and after 20 minutes he slowed the engine, then shut it off entirely and started to paddle through the weed-choked shallows, not wanting to foul his engine.  There was a red-white-and-blue buoy up ahead that said, "USA," and I guessed that this was the northernmost point of the contiguous United States.  "A surveyor put this here a few years ago, so I'm guessing it's accurate," Paul told me.  "We can't go up to the shore," he continued, "because it's mucky and full of weeds, so this is as close as we can get."  

It was amazing to sit there on that quiet, gray morning, just me and Paul.  The lake was absolutely still and there wasn't another soul to be seen.  I took some pictures, shot some videos, and Paul then told me about the history of Northwest Angle, which I thought was the perfect setting -- and the perfect person to tell me, Paul having grown up here.  After 20 minutes, he paddled the boat back out past the weeds, started the engine, and we zipped back to Jake's Resort.  

The whole experience was amazing and was one of the high points of my entire trip. Thanks very much, Paul.  I'm indebted to you.

Summary:

  • I visited this site on September 16, 2016.  
  • The coordinates of this point are: 49° 23.091' N, 95° 9.204' W. 
  • To see a Google Map of the northernmost point, click here.
  • To see the panorama photo I created at this site, click here.

How to Get There:  

To get to the Northwest Angle, drive to northern Minnesota near Lake of the Woods and cross into Manitoba, then drive on the paved Canadian Highway 308.  At the sign, take a right turn onto Provincial Road 525, a dirt road, then follow the signs to the U.S. border.  The border isn't manned but there are signs at the border for instructions regarding Customs.  After entering the Northwest Angle, be sure to stop at a specially-marked Customs phone, then open the phone box and press the correct button (there are two, one for U.S. Customs for folks entering the Northwest Angle and one for Canadian Customs for folks leaving).

After checking in, follow the signs to the village of Angle Inlet.  You'll see Jake's Resort at the end of the road on the left.  There are nice cabins and campsites here, as well as a marina.  And be sure to tell Paul that I said hi! 

The Northernmost Point

 

 

Above:  The northernmost point of the contiguous United States is in the Northwest Angle area of northern Minnesota.  I created the blue line, with a bearing of 90 degrees, to help me determine the northernmost point.