Practically Insignificant

I was pondering the nature of individual U.S. counties recently as I was going through the somewhat tedious process of create my 100th meridian map. My mind began to wonder. There are urban counties, suburban counties and rural counties. Every once in awhile, however, there will be an individual county that has a size or a shape that transcends those categories. A place known primarily for a well-known city may stretch far enough geographically to hide some extremely rural areas in remote corners. I featured one such instance awhile back in a article I called Would You Believe? when I posted an empty patch of Los Angeles. The series of images featured below follows a similar theme although I’m not trying to play any slight-of-hand or fool anyone.

I considered first the unusual nature of Monroe County, Florida. Let’s head on over.

Monroe County, Florida

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Monroe has an odd shape. It includes the long, narrow string of the Florida Keys, however it also includes a large chunk of the Everglades. Geographically, the overwhelming preponderance of land in Monroe County can be found on the Florida mainland. Much of it is a swamp. Conversely, the large preponderance of people in Monroe live on all those small islands know as keys. I scoured Google satellite images until I found a lone residence as far removed from the county seat of Key West as possible (map).

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How much attention do you thing the county’s elected officials give to someone so remotely located from the political center of power? It would take a resident living at this spot nearly four hours and 186 miles (300 km) to drive to the county seat, at least according to the conservative projections of Google Maps.

King County, Washington

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I noticed the urban-rural dichotomy in King County, Washington when I stopped at Snoqualmie Falls last summer. There are more than 600 thousand residents in Seattle, which is King County’s largest city (and many more than that in its suburbs). Seattle dwarfs the considerably more isolated communities in King’s farthest reaches such as Skykomish (map).

Skykomish residents comprise only 198 of the 2 million people who live in King Co. The town is also a practical exlave. Roads exit to neighboring Snohomish or Chelan only, with none to connect them directly to the rest of King. They’re not completely ignored by the county government, however. They do have a branch of the public library.

Orleans Parish, Louisiana

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This doesn’t look much like New Orleans. Nonetheless it’s a part of Orleans Parish situated along a narrow strip of land hemmed-in between the farthest eastern reach of Lake Pontchartrain and the western edge of Lake Borgne, an arm of the Gulf of Mexico. Orleans is a consolidated city-parish. That means that people who live along this isolated spit (map) are every bit as much a part of the City of New Orleans as those fronting on Bourbon Street, just without the walk-up windows for beer and hurricanes or the Mardi Gras shenanigans. They also don’t require the same level of police presence either so maybe it’s not always such a bad thing to have some distance.

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

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Allegheny County is known for being the home of Pittsburgh. This definitely does not resemble Pittsburgh although it shares a common county. It’s not likely that farther-flung residents such as this one (map) have much in common with their urban brethren except possibly rooting for the Steelers.

There are certainly numerous instances of small handfuls of people in far-removed areas of jurisdictions with little in common with their fellow citizens. Feel free to post some of your favorites in the comments.