Inspired Travel: The Northwest Angle

by  Darren Murph | Sep 25, 2013
Map of Minnesota showing the Northwest Angle
Map of Minnesota showing the Northwest Angle / dk_photos/iStock

At the extreme northern edge of Minnesota, there are a series of bays – Buffalo Bay, Muskeg Bay, and Fourmile Bay – which together constitute over 65,000 miles of shoreline, and provide one of the state's most popular tourist destinations. On a map, everything north of these bodies of water would appear to be Canadian territory, but look more closely and you'll see there is actually a small piece of Minnesota awkwardly wedged between Manitoba and Ontario. The Northwest Angle, as it's known, is the northernmost point in the contiguous 48 states – not to mention one of the coldest places to visit in America during the winter.

What is it? The Northwest Angle is simply known as "the Angle" by those who live there, and though it measures 473.2 square miles in size, just 20 percent of that is land. You can find it on a map by looking north of Zippel Bay State Park, or east of lower Manitoba. It's the only place in the United States (Alaska notwithstanding) that is north of the 49th parallel – the invisible line which forms the international border from the Angle west to Washington State. (Oddly enough, this same erratic border resulted in another curious blip on the US map: Point Roberts, Washington.)

How do you get there?  U.S. citizens hoping to pay the Angle a visit will most likely need a passport, though it is possible to make it over document-free, by boat (summer only), plane (anytime), or car via ice road over the lake (winter only). The only way to drive from the mainland to the Northwest Angle is via a 63-mile journey that passes through Canada. As if getting to Warroad, Minnesota wasn't adventurous enough, you'll need to head north from there into Canada, continue onto Highway 308, and eventually turn right onto Highway 525 (Angle Road).

Entering back into the United States, you'll find a gravel road and a reporting booth at a ramshackle border crossing point known as Jim's Corner. That's right: instead of having a manned border crossing, this place is so incredibly remote that both nations have decided to let you phone in any declarable items. You'll drive around 10 miles inland before reaching the first actual settlement, but with less than 200 residents, you could probably avoid any signs of human life without too much effort.

In the winter, you actually can visit by car without crossing through Canada. You'll need to cross around 20 miles of pure ice in order to do it, so it's hardly for the faint of heart. Alternatively, those with access to a boat can make the same crossing via that method once the ice melts.

Things to do and see: In the summer, the Angle is a gorgeous place to hike. The land portion is still mostly covered in trees, and there's many miles of shoreline for those who enjoy fishing, kayaking, or frolicking in faraway lakes. There's no tourism industry to speak of here, so you're mostly on your own. That said, the locals are friendly, unique folk who rarely get the chance to chat with visiting outsiders. You can also visit the last one-room public school in the state, and if you've ever read Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, you'll be happy to know that it was set here. Once you're done exploring, the city of Winnipeg is only three hours away, which offers modern conveniences like fast food, hotel chains, and reliable Internet.

Delta airlines plane in sky
Find The Best Cruises
Find a cruise

Find the best deals!

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices