Skip to comments.Point Roberts (an American city stranded at the tip of a Canadian peninsula)
Posted on 04/22/2016 10:17:58 AM PDT by NYer
The Convention of 1818 between Britain and America following the War of 1812 had a tough job to take on: determining the border between Canada and the United States. In an effort to avoid controversy and confusion caused by drawing the boundary based on watershed, the two countries agreed on a simpler solution: the 49th parallel.
There were, of course, multiple problems that arose with this solution, including the fact that Vancouver Island was split in two by the imaginary line. The debate over whether the line of latitude should split the island in two or if it should be ignored, giving the full island to Canada, was known as The Oregon Boundary Dispute. In 1846 President James Polk proposed making Vancouver Island an island of two countries, therein designating more land to America, but this was immediately rejected by the British. In the end, the British and Americans agreed to give the entire Vancouver Island to Canada, while giving the San Juan Islands to the United States.
Problem solved, right? Not exactly. Due to limited knowledge of the region's geography at the time, there was one land area that both the Americans and the British failed to notice: The Tsawwassen Peninsula.
This peninsula was unknown at the time, but once discovered, it was too late. The agreement had accidently cut off a tiny piece of Canada and given it to the United States.
Nowadays, at the end of this peninsula, there is a little American town called Point Roberts, Washington. The only land route out of Point Roberts is through Canada. This town of over 1,000 people has a clinic, a police station, a fire department, a marina, and a primary school.
As a result of this geographic peculiarity the town has some strange habits. Every day, a large portion of the Canadians living just north travel across the border to buy groceries and gas, which are about a third cheaper in the U.S. It is said that Canadians will also travel over for the medium rare burgers, which are unheard of in Vancouver because of the strict Canadian health code. Point Roberts is also an unusually safe city: because of the border security, the crime rate of Point Roberts is over three times lower than that of Washington as a whole.
Despite all of these intriguing qualities, it seems that keeping this geographically isolated town in working order is remarkably difficult. The county that this town belongs to has been slow in providing it with adequate infrastructure, considering that it took two years to install a single streetlight. Business is slow, except for in the summer, when the residency quintuples due to Canadian tourism. There's no shoe store, no veterinarian, and no dentist. There also isn't a single school that serves students from grades 4-12. To access these things, it's necessary to cross the Canadian border to Tsawwassen, circle to White Rock, Canada, and finally cross the American border to Blaine, Washington. This trip is 40 minutes there, 40 minutes back, and it requires four borders to be crossed. For students who live in Point Roberts, the bus to Blaine High School leaves as early as 6:25am, which is before sunrise on most schooldays.
Regardless of the pros and cons, it is quite spectacular that places like these exist. It's a place that's almost as Canadian as it is American, where maple leaf flags fly high (the vast majority of boats in the marina are owned by Canadians). It's a place that is here by accident, by foolishness, a mistake that went unfixed. It also shows the ability of people to adapt, and to make this strange geographical exclave a livable home for over a thousand people.
In the early 1970s my wife and I made an effort to travel to Point Roberts just to see what was there. Not much as it turned out. We did not have passports back then but I do not remember any problem crossing the borders.
So the low crime rate is because of strict border security? Too bad that concept won’t work elsewhere on our border. At least that is what we are told.
What a riot. Wonder what’s it’s like to live there. Looks cold.
The U.S. almost went to war with Canada.
Beautiful area! The missus and I lived aboard a sailboat for four years based out of Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. I used to occasionally play at a golf course on the mainland that looked across to Point Roberts, Semiahmoo as I recall...very nice course.
Not as cold as you'd think. It seldom snows there due to the maritime climate and Japanese current.
Sounds like a good place for a private ferry boat system.
Hmmm, I know about the cold Alaskan current, don’t know about the Japanese current unless that’s the warm current that goes north from Japan to Alaska and then becomes the cold Alaskan current going south. If so, I would have thought the prevailing current there would be the southbound, cold Alaskan current.
Color me confused: Canada isn't nearly that old. It didn't become a country (from multiple colonies) until after the US Civil War.
I looked at housing prices there a few years ago and they are pretty steep. Seemed to be a lot more expensive than in the surrounding Canadian areas.
I got into Canada as recently as the summer of 2001 with just my driver's license, and got back into the US with just my birth certificate.
The water was, indeed, cold. You always needed a wet suit to do anything under the boat. The cold water kept the barnacles to a minimum when compared to Florida, for example.
The ‘Northwest Angle’ (Lake of the Woods County) in Minnesota has a similar situation. Access is either by water or by entering Canada.
very warm since Fukishima :)
From a FL or S. CA perspective, yes, it is COLD! From a Canadian, or ND perspective, the weather is mild. The ‘lower mainland’ of BC (aka metro Hongcouver) is known as’Lotusland’. Point Roberts is South of Hongcouver.
We lived in Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) for a year. While there, we learned that a young Captain George Pickett faced off against British Red Coats in the border dispute on that island.
Almost Canada! Wonder who they’ll vote for on May 24th? :-)
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