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Boardwalk leads to the Northernmost Point monument, high and dry above more southerly terrain.
Boardwalk leads to the Northernmost Point monument, high and dry above more southerly terrain.

Northernmost Point of the Lower 48

Field review by the editors.

Angle Inlet, Minnesota

The Northwest Angle is a 116-square-mile chunk of Minnesota 60 miles north of the Canadian border. Technically a "functional exclave," it exists because it was poorly mapped in 1755, and the map was never fixed. By land, you need a passport to enter or leave. It's surrounded by water and Canada.

Inside: USA's touchscreen. Outside: Canada's telephone.
Inside: USA's touchscreen. Outside: Canada's telephone.

There are many Lower 48 "northernmosts" in the Northwest Angle, including the northernmost road, school, post office, golf course (9 holes), and bar.

Most north-obsessed Lower 48 travelers, however, go there for the buoy.

With the painted proclamation, "Northernmost Point Contiguous U.S.A.," the buoy -- actually a pair of cement culverts joined together -- was the idea of Northwest Angle residents Joseph Laurin and Richard McKeever. Before they created the monument in May 2017, map-minded tourists would travel to the Northwest Angle and find nothing to mark the Northernmost Point. "People were taking pictures of road signs," said Joe Henry, the Angle's director of tourism. "It was ridiculous." Everyone agreed that a photo-op monument was needed, but the problem was that the actual Northernmost Point is off-shore. Where to put the monument? In the water? On land? Where on land? The debate, said Joe, lasted for years.

Pointing to the check-in border booth at Jim's Corner.
Pointing to the check-in border booth at Jim's Corner.


"Most Northerly P.O. in Contiguous U.S." A worthy claim to fame.

That's when Laurin and McKeever unofficially took over the project. They felt that the monument should be as close to the Northernmost Point as possible, but also easy for visitors to pose with. That spot, perhaps not coincidentally, turned out to be on the property of the fishing resort owned by Richard McKeever. "There's more traffic here than anywhere else on the Angle," McKeever told us. "If you were to put it at the real closest spot, which is a swamp, no one would ever see it."

In a stroke of inspired thinking, Laurin said that the Northernmost monument should mimic the monument at the Continental USA's Southernmost Point in Key West (Which, Joe Henry noted, is not really at the Southernmost Point, either). Millions of tourists who'd snapped photos of the Florida monument would now have a reason -- an irresistible compulsion -- to trek north to this offshoot of Minnesota.

One of several welcome signs at the
One of several welcome signs at the "Top of the Nation."

And a trek it is. According to Joe, part of the allure of the Northwest Angle is its remoteness. Road-bound visitors, after making the required advance registrations with both countries, first pass through the guarded border crossing between Minnesota and Canada. If successful, they're handed directions to the Northernmost Point: a 60 mile drive, with the last 23 on dirt roads (or mud/snow roads depending on the season). Once in the Angle, travelers must register at another checkpoint, this time via Canada's phone and the USA's interactive tablet at an uninhabited booth at "Jim's Corner" (named for the Jim Colson, another Angle resident) -- a lonely spot even in this rugged neighborhood. Then it's on to the monument, and -- dodging horse flies and mosquitoes -- a snapshot to remember.

Northwest Angle: where the streets are paved with mud and dust.
Northwest Angle: where the streets are paved with mud and dust.

The buoy is painted yellow, blue, green, and black -- different colors than the one in Key West. People sometimes wonder if that's significant, but Joe said that the monument was painted by Girl Scouts who simply chose colors that they liked.

It was originally lettered "Northernmost Point Continental U.S.A.," mimicking the slogan on the Key West buoy. Belatedly remembering that Alaska exists, "Continental" was repainted with "Contiguous" a couple of months later. Springtime flooding would sometimes cut off visitors from the buoy with water and mud, so a simple boardwalk was added in 2022 and a wider high-and-dry standing area was added in 2023, ensuring that the monument would be accessible year-round.

The adjacent Lake of the Woods is never closed, even when it's frozen over.
The adjacent Lake of the Woods is never closed, even when it's frozen over.

We made a quick stop at the fishing resort and found refrigerator magnets of the buoy for sale, but no postcards. Because the buoy arrived in the age of smartphones, there may be little perceived need for a snail-mail memento.

Residents of this orphaned patch of Minnesota have, on occasion, threatened to secede from the U.S. and change the address of the Northwest Angle to Canada -- mostly over arguments about fishing. But if they did, what map-minded tourist would visit? A better solution would be to give the U.S. more of Canada, and create an uninterrupted path from the Lower 48 to its most northerly spot. Maybe Uncle Sam would even pave the road.

Northernmost Point of the Lower 48

Address:
7600 Young's Bay Drive NW, Angle Inlet, MN
Directions:
Monument is at the end of Hwy 331/Young's Bay Drive NW, between Young's Bay Resort and Jerry's Restaurant and Lounge. You have to drive through 60 miles of Canada to get here, the last 23 on a dirt road. You'll need a passport, and you have to check in with border authorities when you arrive and check out when you leave.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Northernmost Post Office in the Lower 48 StatesNorthernmost Post Office in the Lower 48 States, Angle Inlet, MN - 5 mi.
Northernmost School in the Lower 48 StatesNorthernmost School in the Lower 48 States, Angle Inlet, MN - 5 mi.
Husky the MuskieHusky the Muskie, Kenora, ON, Canada - 36 mi.
In the region:
Volkswagen Spider, Kenora, ON, Canada - 37 mi.

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