Northwest Angle

Northwest Angle: U.S. Territory Only Accessible Via Water into Canada

Northwest Angle, Minnesota
A map of Minnesota: The Northwest Angle is the peninsula that extends north of 49 degrees north at the northern border between Minnesota and Canada. Getty Images/Cartesia

Looking at a map of North America, one is given several impressions. One is given the impression that Maine is the northernmost point of the lower forty-eight states. The second is that the area known as the Northwest Angle is a part of Canada. Both of these impressions are inaccurate.

The Northwest Angle

The Northwest Angle is located in Minnesota. It is actually the northernmost point of the United States conterminous forty-eight states and it is the only point in the United States, apart from Alaska, that is north of the 49th parallel. It is attached to Manitoba and is only accessible from the United States by boat across the Lake of the Woods or through Canada by means of windy back roads.

Northwest Angle Origin

The Northwest Angle was partitioned by the Treaty of Paris which divided U.S. territory and British territory. The treaty set the boundary to the north to run "through the Lake of the Woods to the northwestern most point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi." This boundary was set based on the Mitchell Map, a map that had several inaccuracies, including showing the Mississippi River extending too far north. The Treaty of 1818 determined that the boundary would be drawn instead from "a line drawn from the most northwestern point of the Lake of the Woods, [due south, then] along the 49th parallel of north latitude." This treaty created the Northwest Angle. The Northwest Angle is known to locals as "The Angle."

Life on the Angle

As of the 2000 Census, the Angle had a population of 152 people, including 71 households and 48 families. The Angle has one schoolhouse, the Angle Inlet School, which is Minnesota's last one-room schoolhouse. Its enrollment varies by seasons and attendees, including the school's teacher, get to the school often by boat from one of the islands, or by snowmobile in the winter.

The area first received telephone service in the 1990s, but radio telephones are still used on the islands. The Angle is a big area for tourism, but it has retained its separation from the rest of the world without becoming transformed and modernized.

Lake of the Woods

The Lake of the Woods is the lake that the Northwest Angle sits on. It has a surface area of about 4,350 km2 and claims to be "The Walleye Capitol of the World." It is a destination for tourists and fishermen. The Lake of the Woods has 14,632 islands and is fed by the Rainy River from the south and drains to the Winnipeg River to the northwest.

Northwest Angle's Desire to Secede

In the 1990s, during strife over border-crossing policies and stricter fishing regulations, the residents of the Angle expressed their desire to secede from the United States and join Manitoba. Congressman Collin Peterson (D) of the United States House of Representatives proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution in 1998 that would allow residents of the Northwest Angle to vote on whether or not they wanted to secede from the Union and join Manitoba. The legislation, however, did not pass, and the Northwest Angle remains a part of the United States.