A Linear Portrait of the USA/Canada Border

The International Boundary runs over water for more than 1,300 miles, from the St. Lawrence River in New York, through the Great Lakes and their connecting rivers, into the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, and finally to the Lake of the Woods, at the edge of Manitoba. Along the way, the border goes from the industrial heartland of the Midwest, to its hinterlands, and is spanned by some of the busiest international crossings in the world.  The boundary through the Great Lakes was first surveyed in 1817-1824, spurred on by fur trade-era concerns. Hundreds of turning points along the water boundary were recorded and locked into place with reference markers on the shore.

4274 modified Google Earth image.

4275 modified Google Earth image.
After leaving the 45th Parallel on the Mohawk reservation, the International Boundary follows the St. Lawrence River, westward, past Cornwall Island and the city of Cornwall, Ontario.

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The boundary places Cornwall Island in Canada, and the southern shore of the river in the US.

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The two are connected by the Seaway Bridge, the first crossing of the water boundary, following the line from east to west.

4310 CLUI photo.
The bridge climbs up out of Roosevelttown, New York, over the Seaway, and crosses the international boundary over the middle of the river, at a point between the two towers of the bridge.

4314 CLUI photo.
The bridge then descends towards the Akwesasne settlement on Cornwall Island, and into a phantom Port of Entry.

4312 CLUI photo.
The Canadian Port of Entry here operated for decades, until it was closed in 2009, following a dispute between the Akwesasne and the Canadian Border Services Agency. At that time, with a general trend towards a more secure border, the CBSA was proposing to arm its agents working the border, as the Americans had done years before. Concerned about sovereignty and safety, the Akwesasne refused to allow these armed Canadian federal officers to operate in their community. The conflict was resolved by moving the Port of Entry off the island and building a new station on the north shore of the river, off the reservation.

4313 CLUI photo.
This required building a new bridge too, as the old bridge was much higher, and landed further from the shore, into the city of Cornwall. This was finally completed a few years ago, at great expense to the Canadian Government.

4315 CLUI photo.
It produced a strange, inter-border condition though, as landing on Cornwall Island from the USA puts you in Canada, and into the street network of the Reservation, but without passing through a Port of Entry (besides the closed one, which sits like a multi-ported abandoned island, circumvented by the highway). The result is that even though you have arrived in Canada, and can drive around the streets on Cornwall Island, you are not legally there, unless you are a native, or plan on staying permanently.

4316 CLUI photo.
If you leave Cornwall Island and head back south, you go back over the bridge, and land in line at the USA Port of Entry, where they will ask how long you were in Canada, and why. If you tell them that you were just visiting Cornwall Island, they will ask if you checked in with the active Canadian Port of Entry, on the north shore of the river. If the answer is no, then you technically “snuck” into Canada, and if the Canadian authorities know of your visit (by remote camera observation or by the discrepancy in the USA boundary crossing information, possibly shared with the Canadians), then you could be subjected to a $5,000 fine, and immediate vehicle impoundment. They recommend turning around and checking in at the Canadian Port of Entry, then turning around again to return here.

4317 CLUI photo.
This is one of busiest crossings on the New York boundary with Canada, with around two million crossings a year. The settlement of Akwesasne on Cornwall Island has become an international interstitial area, truly a third nation of First Nation people, in a crack on the international boundary. The new bridge, which opened in January, 2014, has been named, suitably, the Three Nations Bridge.

4256 modified Google Earth image.
At Roosevelttown, on the New York side, on either side of the southern end off the bridge, are two large industrial plants, an Alcoa aluminum plant and an automotive plant that was torn down a couple of years ago, and where the industrial area’s pollution problems are being addressed.

4318 CLUI photo.
This is part of an industrial area created to consume the electricity produced by a massive energy project that turned this part of the St. Lawrence into a hydraulic landscape machine. Three dams hold back the water on this stretch of river, turning it into a lake. A series of locks on the south side allow traffic through along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

4319 CLUI photo.
The project, known as the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project, was built as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a multibillion dollar engineering of most of the river, developed along the boundary by the two nations in the 1950s.

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At the tip of Barnhart Island, across from Robert Moses State Park, is the Robert Moses-Robert Saunders Dam, connected to the Ontario shore at Cornwall, that forms Lake St. Lawrence, behind it.

4320 CLUI photo.
Power plants on either end of the dam generate around 1,000 megawatts each, equivalent to a coal or nuclear power plant.

4324 CLUI photo.
The international boundary goes through the middle of the dam.

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25 miles up stream is the Iroquois Dam, built as part of this system, to control the output of the Great Lakes upstream, and the amount of water coming through the Robert Moses-Robert Saunders Dam, and the rest of the St. Lawrence River.

4322 CLUI photo.
The Iroquois Dam also spans the river, and thus the International Boundary.

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Between these two dams is Ogden Island, located on the US side of the river. The island was the intended landing site for an ambitious stunt proposed by stuntman Ken Carter in the midst of the bicentennial pageantry of 1976: to jump from Canada to the USA, over the river, in a car. He constructed an earthen ramp on the Canadian side, tall enough, he calculated, for the distance to be covered, which was more than a mile.

4323 CLUI photo.
Delays in funding and technology postponed the jump until 1979, when his rocket-powered Lincoln Continental took off, and quickly landed in the river. He was injured, but recovered (physically, at least).

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Ten miles further upstream from the Iroquois Dam is the next physical crossing of the river, the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge, the second of three bridges spanning the border along the St. Lawrence.

4325 CLUI photo.
The bridge, more than a mile and half in length, was built in 1960. Also called the Seaway Skyway, the tall bridge offers views of the river and the Seaway, and has a steel deck, so you can even see through it, to the water more than a hundred feet below.

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The Port of Entry on the US side of the bridge is next to a prison and a state mental hospital, as it is common for institutions of this sort to be pushed to the margins of their respective jurisdictions.

4326 CLUI photo.

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Another 25 miles upstream, the river widens up, into the Thousand Islands region. The border comes within a hundred yards of Dark Island, where Singer Castle was built.

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Built by Frederick Bourne, of the Singer Sewing Machine company, the castle is among the most opulent summer houses built by captains of industry in the Thousand Island region in the late 19th and early 20th century.

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Ten miles further upstream into the Thousand Islands is the last bridge crossing the St. Lawrence.

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This is a major crossing, with Interstate 81, and up to two hour delays in the summer. The boundary snakes through small channels around the islands in the diffused river, until it runs between Wellesley Island and Hill Island, and underneath the Thousand Islands Bridge.

4327 CLUI photo.
The channel is narrow, and there is not much of a span.

4328 CLUI photo.
The Kiwanis Club plaque, visible at many crossings, is the only monument between the Ports of Entry.

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30 miles from the bridge, the river and the boundary spill into Lake Ontario, south of Kingston.

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The boundary crosses Lake Ontario, with only three turning points. The long span of boundary across the middle of the lake is 95 miles in length, the second longest single line on the boundary. Because this line was described in early reports as “following the parallel due west,” it is actually not a straight line, but rather is slightly curved, like the parallel it is on. This is one of only two instances of this occurring on the boundary. The other is a 15 mile long east/west line on Lake Erie, which was similarly described. After this mid-line in Lake Ontario, the boundary deviates south west, and then south east, to line up with the mouth of the Niagara River.

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Entering the river, the boundary zigs and zags through the mid-point of the channel, continuing its divide between New York and Ontario.

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The Niagara River Gorge is among the most industrialized and scenic regions in the world, and is spanned by three road bridges and one rail bridge, all of which span the international boundary.

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The first is the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, which connects the US Interstate system with the most direct route to Toronto and Detroit. It has busy Ports of Entry on either side. It is the fourth busiest crossing on the US/Canada border, with delays of up to two hours (but at least there is a view). The international boundary is in the middle of the bridge, with a flag on either side.

4330 CLUI photo.

4331 CLUI photo.
The bridge is downstream from power dams, one in Canada, the other in the US, which hold back water captured at the level above Niagara Falls, releasing it through turbines, generating around 2,000 megawatts at either side.

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The second crossing of the boundary in the Gorge is at the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge. Large trucks are banned from the bridge, and all users must have a NEXUS card, which is available for pre-approved “low risk” frequent travelers. These restrictions make this bridge the choice for locals. There is a train bridge next to it.

4332 CLUI photo.

4271 modified Google Earth image.
The third bridge crossing the boundary over the Gorge is the Rainbow Bridge, which is located within sight of Niagara Falls, and has matching plazas at either end, with toll collection and Ports of Entry, that were rebuilt in 1998 and 2000. The bridge opened in 1941, built by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, which was established to manage the construction of the Rainbow Bridge, after its predecessor, the Honeymoon Bridge, collapsed dramatically into the river in 1938.

4333 CLUI photo.
The bridge’s design was duplicated for the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, and like that bridge, the international boundary passes through the middle of the span, marked by flags on either side.

4334 CLUI photo.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission operates all three of the bridges over the Gorge, which are mostly self-supporting, through tolls, leases, and commercial concessions.

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Upstream of the Falls, the International Control Dam extends from the Canadian side to an artificial island in the middle of the river that is just over the line on the US side of the boundary. The dam has adjustable gates, and is used to slow the rate of flow over the Falls, allowing more water to be drawn into intake pipes, a little further upstream on the river, that deliver water to the two massive reservoirs and power plants in the gorge. The International Control Dam is jointly operated by New York State Power Authority, and Ontario Hydro.

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The Niagara River is less glamorous upstream, passing through the industrial corridors of the Buffalo region, including famous post-industrial sites like Love Canal, and Tonawanda. These industries helped build the nation, and were fueled by the power of the Falls.

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The last bridge over the international boundary in New York State is the Peace Bridge, near downtown Buffalo. With over a million trucks crossing every year, its one of the most heavily used crossings between the US and Canada, and delays at the Ports of Entry can slow the crossing to nearly four hours.

4700 CLUI photo.

4308 modified Google Earth image.
Beyond the bridge, the border enters Lake Erie. It stays close to the middle of the lake, and gets to the other side in 250 miles, with seven turning points. At the western end, the boundary turns northward and enters the Detroit River.

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At the southern end of the river it crosses some flow control piers and dredge spoils islands. But otherwise the border line continues untouched until the only bridge over the river, the Ambassador Bridge.

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The Ambassador is one of only three bridges connecting Michigan and Canada over its entire 721 mile water boundary. It connects the two largest cities on the Michigan/Ontario boundary, Detroit and Windsor. The bridge is the busiest commercial crossing on the entire boundary, with 8,000 trucks per day, nearly 3 million per year, carrying around half of the merchandise trade between the two largest trading partners in the world, Canada and the USA.

4336 CLUI photo.
The bridge is privately owned, by a local billionaire named Manuel Moroun, who also owns the Michigan Central Railway building, an icon of Detroit decrepitude, and has investments in large trucking companies. He is fighting plans to build a new bridge across the river, south of the Ambassador Bridge, though it has been approved by both the US and Canadian authorities, and construction has started on the approach roads through Windsor. Its likely landing zone on the US side is Zug Island, some of the most industrially scorched earth in the country.

4277 modified Google Earth image.
There is a second vehicle crossing between Detroit and Windsor, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, under the river.

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The tunnel portal is a spiral ramp downtown, next to General Motors headquarters, with a duty free shop, toll booth, and a US Port of Entry crammed into the space as well.

4337 CLUI photo.
Built in 1930, the tunnel is limited to two lanes of traffic, one in each direction, and no large trucks are permitted. Still it sees around 13,000 vehicles a day. 

4338 CLUI photo.
The international boundary is at the mid point of the mile-long tunnel, 75 feet below the surface of the river.  It is marked precisely with an International Boundary Commission plaque.

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The boundary heads north, out of Detroit and its river, through Lake St. Clair, a large shallow lake between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, and between Ontario and Michigan, not considered one of the Great Lakes.

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North of Lake St Clair is the St. Clair River, which flows out of Lake Huron.

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It separates the communities of Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario, connected only by two border crossings.

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One of which is the St. Clair rail tunnel, under the river, the first underwater rail tunnel in North America.

4339 CLUI photo.
The St. Clair rail tunnel was built in 1881, and closed in 1994, after a second, larger tunnel was built next to it.  The new tunnel was built to accommodate the taller intermodal rail cars, with double-stacked shipping containers, used for international shipping. Detroit has a rail tunnel under its river as well, but it is too small for these trains, and therefore sees less traffic. The new St. Clair Tunnel, more than a mile long, and 27 feet wide, was financed by CN, the Canadian National Railway Company, and is on a rail line connecting the large markets of Chicago and Toronto.  It emerges next to an oil refinery on the Canadian side.

4283 modified Google Earth image.
The only bridge over the St. Clair River is the Blue Water Bridge, which has busy Ports of Entry on either side. The bridge is the second busiest commercial crossing between the two nations, after the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. On the US side, the bridge is connected to two Interstates, 69 and 94, and is part of the trans-continental traffic flow, between Chicago and Toronto, the Midwest and the Northeast.

4340 CLUI photo.
It is composed of two bridges, with traffic flowing one way over each span. The first bridge opened in 1938, originally with two lanes of traffic, one in each direction. A second bridge, on the south side of the first, opened in 1997. The international boundary is at the mid-point of the spans.

4341 CLUI photo.
The bridge is more than a mile long, and is more than 150 feet over the river, to allow Great Lake freighter ships to pass underneath it.

4342 CLUI photo.
The expense of building such tall and large bridges is one reason that there are only four bridges between the Great Lakes of Huron, Michigan, Superior, and Erie, a region covering cities as far apart as Buffalo, Chicago, Sault Ste. Marie, and Duluth.

4343 CLUI photo.
North of the bridge, the international boundary enters Lake Huron.

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The boundary splits the lake in half, and continues its 721 mile journey through the watery edge of the state of Michigan.

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At the north end of the lake the boundary heads towards shore between Cockburn and Drummond Islands, then zig zags northwest, towards the channel separating Lake Huron from Lake Superior.

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After clipping part of an unnamed Canadian peninsula, and dividing a muddy unoccupied island, it enters St. Mary’s River, and goes between the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, generally referred to as the Soo.

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The dominant feature of the region is the Soo locks, which provide passage for ships between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. There are four parallel locks here, built at different times, starting in 1855, to accommodate increasingly larger ships. And there is one smaller one on the Canadian side of the boundary, used mostly for recreational traffic. One of the locks has been idled and awaits a conversion to a super-lock, large enough to handle the largest ships that pass through here, the bulk cargo freighters called Lakers, which can surpass 1,000 feet in length.

4344 CLUI photo.
There are more than 100 lake freighters operating continuously on the Great Lakes, moving raw bulk materials between their source and their market, except for the winter, when the water is frozen. This is mostly iron ore from mines to steel mills, coal to power plants, limestone, grain, salt, and cement. There are around 10,000 passages through the locks every year.

4345 CLUI photo.
The locks are operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has a visitor center for the public at the locks. They also have built a viewing deck, as the locks are an attraction that brings more than just “boat nerds,” from far and wide.

4346 CLUI photo.
The small city of Sault Ste. Marie Michigan operates as a tourist town, focused on its history, ships, and the locks. Sault is French for rapids, and the Soo has always been about the passage, even before the locks, when the rapids on the river forced a portage for fur trader’s canoes and other vessels.

4347 CLUI photo.

4348 CLUI photo.
One attraction in town, the Tower of History, provides an overview of the region.

4349 CLUI photo.
From the top of the tower you can see the locks, and the International Bridge which passes over them, spanning the boundary, and uniting the two Soos. The mid-point of the bridge is the international boundary, above the dammed water channel, the part of the river that is still allowed to flow. Beyond it is a steel mill, on the Canadian side.

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The International Bridge, connecting the two Soos, has a train bridge next to it, and is nearly three miles long. It is the tenth busiest passenger crossing on the border, and the only land crossing between the two nations for nearly 700 miles.

4353 CLUI photo.

4288 modified Google Earth image.
The boundary leaves the Soo and heads out into Lake Superior via Whitefish Bay. At the mouth of the bay is Whitefish Point, off of which are the big open waters of Lake Superior, the largest, northernmost, remotest, and most treacherous of the Great Lakes. Offshore from here is known as the graveyard of the Great Lakes, due to the number of wrecks that have occurred in the area.

4354 CLUI photo.

4385 CLUI photo.
There is a Coast Guard station on the Point, with a lighthouse and a foghorn. Most of it has been turned into the Shipwreck Museum, which has, among its relics, the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald, the most famous ship to wreck in the lake, going down in a storm in 1975, 17 miles off Whitefish Point.

4494 CLUI photo.

4289 modified Google Earth image.
Beyond the Point, the border crosses the last Great Lake, Lake Superior mostly as a single line, 190 miles long, the longest straight line on the boundary.

4290 modified Google Earth image.
At the other end of the line, the boundary rounds Royal Island, then heads towards shore just south of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and west of the Minnesota/Michigan state line, then enters the landscape through the mouth of the Pigeon River, which it follows for many more miles into the interior of the continent.

4495 CLUI photo.
This is a land wooded and remote, though not without interpretive infrastructure. It was here, a few miles south of the Pigeon River, where the settlement of Grand Portage was established in the late 18th century, and became the largest fur-trading post in the Great Lakes at the time. The community was a fortified compound, operated by the North West Company, based out of Montreal, the capital of the fur trade.

4496 CLUI photo.
This was the landing for the Grand Portage, an 8.5 mile long trail for carrying canoes around the waterfalls and rapids of the Pigeon River. At the other end of the portage, fur trade routes on rivers and lakes branched as far as the Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

4355 CLUI photo.
The site is now a National Monument, operated by the National Park Service, with a visitor center.

4497 CLUI photo.

4498 CLUI photo.
There is also a reconstruction of the fort, which operated from 1784 to 1803, when the international boundary was established north of here, and the British Canadian North West Company was forced to move its operations north of the border.

4356 CLUI photo.

4291 modified Google Earth image.
When the International Boundary was established at the Pigeon River, it was because of the well known fur trading route. Today the line from Lake Superior lands at the border crossing on Highway 61, at Grand Portage State Park.

4381 CLUI photo.
The 300-acre park is the only state park in the country that is co-managed by the a state and a native tribe, in this case the Chippewa Tribe, which owns the land, and leases it to the state for a dollar a year. This makes it the only Minnesota State Park that is not owned by the state of Minnesota.

4382 CLUI photo.
Most of the land here, and extending over 75 square miles south of the International Boundary line, is part of the Grand Portage Ojibwe Indian Reservation.  Unlike the Mohawk Reservation on the border in New York, relations between the tribe and the other two federal governments here is outwardly amicable.

4383 CLUI photo.
Grand Portage State Park follows the Pigeon River along its US bank, and includes the largest waterfalls along the river, which prevented passage in the old days (which is why the Grand Portage was established, five miles south of here), including the 120 foot tall High Falls, the tallest in the state, though it shares them with Ontario.

4292 modified Google Earth image.
A few hundred yards east of the visitor center, the International Boundary passes through the middle of the Highway 61 bridge, the first physical obstruction along the line since the bridge at Sault Ste. Marie, 300 miles away.

4380 CLUI photo.
This is a brief landfall, as it is another 300 miles further west down the line to the next bridge over the boundary, in International Falls.

4379 CLUI photo.
The Port of Entry on the US side is on land leased from the reservation. It is one of eight manned crossing points in the state. It opened in 1961, when the highway was rerouted through here.

4378 CLUI photo.
Vestiges of the old crossing remain, on the former Highway 61, six miles up the Pigeon River, on an unmaintained, broken road surface. The buildings that once stood at the crossing, which included a store, a hotel, and customs stations on either side, are gone.

4377 CLUI photo.
As is the bridge over the river, known as the Outlaw Bridge, as this was a notorious crossing for contraband, especially during Prohibition.

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This stretch of the boundary, starting at the Pigeon River, meanders wildly through stream beds, waterfalls, rapids, lakes and bogs, for 300 miles, while covering a distance of 175 miles, as the crow flies.

4294 modified Google Earth image.
The border is defined through the region by 1,562 recorded turning points, and 1,100 reference markers installed along the way. Unlike the other watery portions of boundary, this region is not entirely devoid of monuments on the line itself, as in at least three or four places, the line follows a portage next to rapids or waterfalls, where the boundary itself is usually high and dry.

4499 CLUI photo.
This is the Boundary Waters, one of the great wildernesses of the United States. One of the few towns in the area is Ely, a recreational outfitters town, a base for launching trips into the Boundary Waters. The local radio station, WELY, calls itself “end of the road radio.” It is 15 miles south of the international boundary. Dirt roads extend further into the region though, to remote resorts that are truly at the end of the road, like the Northern Tier Boy Scouts Camp on Moose Lake, 20 miles further from Ely, and less than five miles from the boundary. But there are no roads that make it to the boundary itself in the Boundary Waters.

4295 modified Google Earth image.
Towards the end of this journey the boundary passes through increasingly large and open lakes, approaching the channel of the Rainy River, passing between the towns of International Falls, Minnesota, and Fort Frances, Ontario.

4296 modified Google Earth image.

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International Falls is a company town, a paper mill town, with plants on both sides of the river. Paper, however, is not generally considered a growing industry. The plant on the Canadian side, owned by the Resolute Forest Products, was closed in 2014. The plant on the US side has downsized, but is still operating, though it was sold, in 2013, by its longtime owner, the Boise Paper Company, to the Packaging Corporation of America.

4351 CLUI photo.
The two plants were originally one company, the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company (Mando), with pulp and raw processing on the Canadian side, and paper production on the US side. This saved on the duties of importing finished paper into the US, the larger market for the product. In the 1960s, the US plant was purchased by Boise, and became one of their flagship locations, making white office paper distributed nationally for fifty years. Now it makes paper for packaging.

4350 CLUI photo.
Of the three objects spanning the border here, the first, upstream, is a large metal boom, which catches any boaters or flotsam that might have idled down the river, before it goes over the dam.

4352 CLUI photo.
Next is the bridge, known as the Fort Frances-International Falls International Bridge. It was built by the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company, and is still privately owned, jointly, by the two paper companies on either side. The short steel span can carry railcars, vehicles, and people, and also carries pipelines connecting the plants. There is a $6.00 toll northbound, but not southbound. At either end is a Port of Entry, to check in with customs and immigration.

4357 CLUI photo.
The mid-point of the bridge is the international boundary, and though it is not marked on the bridge, there is a small reference monument on a rock, pointing towards the middle of the dam, where a small marker is cemented to the roof of the enclosed walkway over the dam.

4369 CLUI photo.
The dam was built by the visionary lumberman and developer of the region, E. W. Backus, starting in 1905, to produce electricity for industries he established soon afterwards, including the paper plants, and the bridge connecting them. The dam flooded the falls which gave the town its name.

4370 CLUI photo.
International Falls is famous as one of the coldest places in the continental United States, with daily high temperatures below freezing for an average of 109 days a year.

4371 CLUI photo.

4372 CLUI photo.
There are sizable log yards in town as well.

4373 CLUI photo.
And a sizable Smokey the Bear sculpture in a local park, encouraging people to protect their important local resources. 

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The boundary leaves International Falls, following the Rainy River downstream to its terminus in the Lake of the Woods.

4374 CLUI photo.
Along the way it passes through just one physical construction, the bridge at the town of Baudette. This is a small local crossing, with a Port of Entry on either side. In the summer it is heavily used by fishermen, as Baudette is known as the “Walleye Capital of the World.”

4375 CLUI photo.

4376 CLUI photo.
The bridge was built in 1959, by the Dominion Bridge Company, out of Winnipeg, and is a steel truss bridge, with a steel deck, which helps prevent icing in these cold winter places.

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Baudette has two commercial automotive research tracks, for testing cars in extreme cold conditions, further testament to the extremes of the climate here in the middle of the continent.

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Ten miles from Baudette, the river spills into Lake of the Woods, the last stop along the watery boundary. The line crosses the lake diagonally, towards the Angle Inlet, to the northernmost point on the continental boundary, after which it heads due south, abruptly, and picks up the 49th Parallel, after 27 miles, and heads west. This unusual border behavior cuts off a piece of Minnesota, stranding it in the Lake of the Woods, surrounded by water, disconnected by land from the rest of the US. This feature is known as the Northwest Angle.

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There is a community of two hundred people in the Angle, more or less depending on the season. And though 70% of the Angle is native land, there are no full time native residents here.

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The only way in by land is by a road from the west, across the border from Manitoba. Unusual for an official border crossing, there are no Ports of Entry anywhere near either side of the line.

4364 CLUI photo.
Instead a sign at the border instructs travelers to report in via videophone at Jim’s Corner, eight miles down the road.

4365 CLUI photo.
At Jim’s Corner, there is a parking lot, and a shed labeled as an Outlying Area Reporting Station (OARS). There are two other OARS on the Angle too, at marinas, for people checking in by boat.

4366 CLUI photo.
The OARS at Jim’s corner has two similar call boxes with videophones inside, shared by the US and Canadian border authorities, though attributed to US Customs and Border Protection (CPB).

4367 CLUI photo.
Inside the box are two buttons, one for calling the US  to check in on arrival, and one for calling Canada to check out on departure. There is a camera inside too, which presumably they use to look at you, though you cannot see them.

4368 CLUI photo.
Once you have answered the usual questions on the videophone (name, nationality, place of birth, why you are there) and they confirm that they have verified your vehicle visually using cameras mounted on poles outside, you are asked to wait for them to hang up first, officially completing the call. Then you are good to go, so long as you return here on your way out.

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There are two developed areas on the Angle, at either end of Dawson Road. At the west end is Young’s Bay, with a marina and another OARS booth, there for boaters arriving at the Angle from Canadian places on the lake.

4359 CLUI photo.

4360 CLUI photo.
There is a boat ramp, fuel, and Jerry’s, with a sign that declares it to be “the most northerly bar in the lower 48,” and currently the only place to eat on the Angle.

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The rest of the settlement is back towards the Angle itself, where there are more docks, boat ramps, a grass runway, church, and homes.

4361 CLUI photo.
The post office at Angle Inlet declares to be the most northerly post office in the contiguous US.

4362 CLUI photo.
A small school at Angle Inlet has a plaque outside attributing the existence of the Northwest Angle to Benjamin Franklin, since he was involved in formulating the Treaty of Paris, that settled the boundary following the Revolutionary War with Britain. In that treaty, drawn in 1783, the northwesternmost point of the Lake of the Woods was designated as the northwestern corner of the USA. After the addition of more western territories, the Treaty of London, in 1818, established the boundary westward along the 49th Parallel, so a line was drawn due south from the Northwest Angle, to the 49th.

4363 CLUI photo.
The Northwest Angle itself is a cartographic point over water, three miles past the docks of the last rustic resort.

4304 modified Google Earth image.
It is an actual place, very much on the map, the northernmost part of the continental United States, and the west end of the 1,300 mile long water boundary between the US and Canada.

4303 modified Google Earth image.
It is even visitable, you can go there by boat. But when you get there you will see that there is nothing there to see.

4500 modified Google Earth image.
The end of the watery boundary between the nations is an immaterial line.