Northwest Angle Trip Report

northwest tip of North West Angle, Minnesota - northernmost point in the Lower 48 states

Date: July 23, 2007
Author: Dave Covill

unnamed swamp edge and unnamed inlet channel (both 1,060 ft)

This is certainly an interesting geographic point to visit. Many of our highpointing brethren have visited the famous white boulder in Key West FL, denoting the southernmost (ostensibly, but that's a topic for another day) point in the Lower 48 states at 24° 32' 38" N:

topo chart

Fewer still have visited South Beach on the Big Island in Hawaii, which is the actual southernmost point in the entire USA, possessions notwithstanding, at 18° 54' 49" N:

topo chart

I reckon some of us have been to Quoddy Head in Maine, and attempted to walk the beach to get to the easternmost point in the US, at 66°57'01" W:

topo chart

There are rocks just offshore, but various reports indicate they are submerged at high tide.

How about Cape Alava in Washington, the westernmost point in the Lower 48 states, at 124° 44' 05" W? Who's been here? :

topo chart

There are rocks offshore, the furthest west of which are at 124° 45' 54" W.

This is further west than Cape Blanco in Oregon at 124° 33' 54" W:

topo chart

And also further west than Cape Mendocino in California at 124° 24' 30" W:

topo chart

Here is the Acme URL for the northernmost point in the Lower 48, as Northwest Angle, Minnesota at 49° 23' 03" N; in the water in the center of the channel between Ontario and Minnesota, where it intersects the north-south international border between Manitoba and Minnesota:

topo chart

The farthest north one can walk in the Lower 48 on dry land (translate: "swampy", but still not up to your knees yet in marsh grass transitioning to wild rice) is here:

topo chart

Another view of the entire Northwest Angle parcel of land, on a large scale, with the road visible coming in from Manitoba to the west:

topo chart

Approach Directions

You can only drive to within perhaps 5 crow-fly miles of this point to Angle Inlet. There are 4WD tracks from the south in Northwest Angle, and from the west in Manitoba, but they apparently are not driveable, and are used in winter as snowmobile paths.

From Warroad Minnesota, the nearest town of any decent size, drive north out of town towards Canada on CR 313 from near the Window factory and the hockey stick factory. Reset odometer to zero here, where it leaves MN 11. Reach the border crossing at mile 6 at a village called Middlebro (sic) on the Canadian side.

Important! You will need to comply with all regulations when crossing the border into Canada, and back into the US. Going into Canada, be forewarned! They don't care too much about Junk in the Trunk, but they do care about your character. They will research you on-line with a US database, and if you have a felony, or a DUI, you don't come in, period. At least not without jumping through major hoops, like a consul or something like that. If 10 years have gone by since your DUI or minor felony, you are deemed by the Canadians to be "Rehabilitated", and they will let it slide. By mid-2008, they will require a passport of all visitors from the US at all Canadian border crossings. A Drivers License will simply not be enough. Going home to the US, they will look in your car, maybe even extensively. They may run a background check, maybe not.

Additionally, there is an un-manned border patrol station at a place called Jim's Corner (seriously, and there's nothing there but the border patrol shack). This place is a 4-way intersection of gravel roads, 7.7 miles east of the Manitoba/Minnesota Northwest Angle border. You must enter the shack, and pick up a videophone, and push a button to call either the US side when entering into The Angle, or the Canadian side when returning into Manitoba. It takes about a minute or two, although there could be a line to use the phone. They will give you a confirmation number, you must write it down. If stopped, especially in Manitoba, they will be P.O.'d you didn't call them. You can not see them via the videophone, but they can both see you.

Anyways, once through the border crossing and into Canada, eh, proceed on the road, now called Canada 12, to the first town, called Sprague. At mile 18.6 in Sprague, turn right (north), and go into Sprague on 308. Continue through town on this good paved 2 lane road, and wind northeastward for quite a ways towards The Angle. At mile 40.2, you will reach a junction for Moose Lake Park to the right. Keep straight/left (north), and continue. At mile 45.2, reach a junction with a well-signed turn for taking a right to Northwest Angle. Turn right, and proceed on the now good gravel road towards the border. Reach the US border at mile 51.4, which is just a sign, and a reminder sign to check in at Jims Corner. Reach Jims Corner at mile 59.1, 7.7 miles into MN. Stop and make the call. Do it again on the way out. Once you have called, follow the road straight east, then it will turn and go north towards the fishing village of Angle Inlet. Follow the road as it curves right at 60.1, and left at 60.6. Reach the end of the road at the docks and lodges and general store marking Angle inlet, at mile 61.4.

OK, you're here, now what? You are 5 miles southeast of your destination. You can not drive there; not even close. You can't walk here, there are 3 major creek crossings, each of which is about 100 feet wide, and maybe up to 10 fet deep. You could, if you had a boat, get there. Ahah!

I got out of my car, looked around, and noticed a gentleman sitting in a roughly 16 foot aluminum fishing boat. He was with a very young girl, about 10 years old. He was headed out for a day of fishing, he explained, and was a part-time fishing guide in his retirement years. I explained my predicament to him, and asked if he knew of anybody who might be willing to take me out to the north point area. He said he had taken a fellow from Key West Florida there years ago, who only wanted to get to the wet point, not the dry land point, and he had only wanted to dip a bottle in and take a little water home with him. He believed he had heard of one other party who had come up there in recent years to visit the Point.

I sensed he wasn't really interested, and not only that, I didn't see anybody else around who was actually near a boat. There were other boats moored or docked in the "harbor" as it were. Noting my sense of urgency, and various other time constraints, I unleashed my secret weapon, namely, my wallet. I offered him $100 worth of Ga$ $$$ if he would run me out there. I could see the gears turning for a few seconds, and then he said fine, and sent the girl off to drive home the 2 blocks in the family golf cart. She seemed a bit young to be driving a golf cart to me, but she zipped right down the road as if she had been doing it for years.

I gathered my gear, switched into my boots, got some water and snacks, and of course the maps, and off we went. He covered the roughly 5-6 miles to Northwest Point in maybe 20 minutes or so. The motor was a 75 horse, and we flew along at maybe 45 mph. Flat calm, no breeze, maybe 90-93°F, and maybe 90%+ humidity on shore, less out on the water for some reason. We passed the various large creeks on the US side (Left, or SW), and he rattled off the names correctly, as I was comparing them to the map to be sure I knew where we were. We passed the next to last, Bear Creek, and the wild rice began to creep inwards towards the center of the channel, starting from a bay maybe mile wide, and narrowing there to maybe 100 feet wide. When we reached the last inlet, Harrison Creek, the wild rice suddenly grew to a close, and I feared we would be stopped short, about 0.5 miles from our destination. He tilted the prop up, I sat in the bow seat, and we proceeded slowly. The motor fouled completely as we approached the moment of arrival. He got out a fishing knife and freed the prop of a lot of green weeds, and we crept further, passing the inlet on the Canadian (north) side visible on the map just above the word "CAN". It is not a navigable inlet, of course, but one can discern the trees surrounding what was once an inlet before the wild rice took over. My guide said that 3-5 years ago, the wild rice was much further apart, and one could cruise freely all the way northwest past the Cut and into Canada proper.

It turns out that the Native Americans on the Canadian side come in boats every Fall and harvest all the rice they can lay their hands on. My guide claimed they averaged 75,000# a year, good for about that much in $$$, a nice haul for a weeks work for a small group of people. We proceeded a bit further than the north side cove, and lo & behold, to my shock and amazement, we turned our heads from looking closely ahead of the boat at the weeds, and to the south. There it was, a 50 foot wide cut in the trees, trending due south away from us at a slight angle to the inlet. We had arrived! The northern-most point in the Lower 48. It went as far as the eye could see, miles really, and appeared to have been cut down fairly recently. My guide said it had been either cut initially, or re-cut, shortly after 9/11/2001.

We turned back to the southeast, and arrived at open water near the inlet to Harrison Creek. As agreed upon initially, he took me down the creek and landed me at the precise spot where the international border crossed, on the NW side of course. We were directly across from a very nice cabin, with a boat at it's dock. That gentleman comes in during the winter from the S along the border on the 4WD road shown on the map, but it is just a trace, not passable by vehicle, just snowmobiles. I hopped out, and my guide laid back for a nap, having smeared himself with DEET. I was able to make my way up about 20 feet and maybe 5-8 feet higher than the water level, and immediately was in the cut. I turned north and proceeded about 500 feet, and came to the first border monument, concrete I think but painted shiny silver, about 4 feet high, with Canada on one side, US on the opposite, something about a 1908 treaty on the third, and Marker #924 on the fourth. I was excited, as it meant I would likely see the one denoted #925 on the map, at a spot close to where I should be to get to the northernmost dry land point in the Lower 48.

I pressed on through grass and weeds about 3-5 feet high. I had on my rain pants and gloves and a long sleeve shirt, and was dripping with sweat before I had gone a half mile. I followed a very faint path through the weeds for much of the way, and assumed it was either an animal trace, or that some Highpointers / geographic extremity freaks had been here not too long ago. I thought of Texas County in Missouri, where I followed a path in grass that Bob & Dotty Martin had made a few weeks earlier that year. It was about 0.7 mile to the end. I reached the marker #925 as expected, near where the trees thinned out, and swamp and grass took over. That marker is about 1 foot above lake level. I continued about 700 feet north of it, and the cut per se disappeared, and it became just marsh grass, with the wild rice in the lake visible a couple of hundred feet north and east of where I stood. I had made it. I could go no further without getting wet to my knees. I was already wet in my boots. I took photos north, east, and south. The #925 marker is faintly visible in my photo due south. I was even with the farthest north bush, with only marsh grass beyond me. I did not leave anything to mark my visit. I will send Adam a few fotos to post with this trip report.

It felt as if Marker #924 was about 6-9 feet above lake level, and #925 was only maybe 1 feet above it. It was noticeably downhill all the way from where I got onto the Cut, to #924, to #925, to where I stopped at the water's edge.

I returned to my guide, and I was gone about 40 minutes. We made it back to Angle Inlet harbor without incident. Following is contact info for my guide, he is there from his winter home in TX from roughly May 1st to October 1st:

Bob Nunn
P.O. Box #73
Angle Inlet, MN 56711
218-223-4882

After returning to Angle Inlet, I noted that the General store was closed, which Bob said was odd at lunch time. He directed me to the largest establishment in the Angle, on the far southeast side of it, called Youngs Bay Resort, and recommended I go there, and have lunch at Jerry's Restaurant. This turned out to be great advice. I was able to take a shower for $1 (you read that right..) and they gave me a towel and soap bar. Nice place, cabins and RV slots.

Across the street, as it were, was Jerrys. My advice, DO NOT attempt to eat the monster burger listed on the menu. Even I couldn't tame it. Double this, double that, bacon, and fries in it. Crazy... To get there, return to Jims Corner, but turn left (south) and go about 4 miles to the end of the road.

I drove out, phoned the Canadians from Jims Corner, and returned to the US without incident. All in all, it took me from about 8AM to 3PM to return to Warroad.

Great adventure!!