Almost Neighbors

On November 5, 2009 · 6 Comments

All the recent talk on the Twelve Mile Circle about roads clipping little corners of territories got me thinking. What about the near misses? Those are the places where someone can’t just barely add a new territory to the life list simply by lucky happenstance. Imagine instances, and I’m focusing on U.S. states here, where the states are almost neighbors. If it weren’t for a narrow slice of an intervening state then the two would have actually shared a border.

I went to one of the map websites, threw some roughly precise great circle distances on them, and found a lot more "almost neighbors" than I imagined. Here are a number of them separated by less than 50 miles. Are you surprised by the frequency too?

  • Maryland would border New Jersey, if it wasn’t for Delaware (12 miles)
  • New Jersey would border Connecticut, if it wasn’t for New York (12 miles)
  • Maine would border Massachusetts, if it wasn’t for New Hampshire (15 miles)
  • Virginia would border Delaware, if it wasn’t for Maryland (32 miles)
  • Illinois would border Tennessee, if it wasn’t for Kentucky (33 miles)
  • Arkansas would border Kentucky, if it wasn’t for Missouri (34 miles)
  • Kansas would border Arkansas, if it wasn’t for Missouri (34 miles)
  • Texas would border Colorado, if it wasn’t for Oklahoma (35 miles)
  • Texas would border Kansas, if it wasn’t for Oklahoma (35 miles)
  • New York would border New Hampshire, if it wasn’t for Vermont (37 miles)
  • Ohio would border New York, if it wasn’t for Pennsylvania (39 miles)
  • Iowa would border Kansas, if it wasn’t for Missouri (41 miles)
  • Washington would border Montana, if it wasn’t for Idaho (44 miles)
  • Mississippi would border Florida, if it wasn’t for Alabama (46 miles)

Let’s take a closer look at some of those included on the list.

New Jersey presents perhaps the most interesting case, with only twelve miles separating it from Maryland on the southern edge and Connecticut on the north.



View Larger Map

Sneaky little Delaware prevents New Jersey from bordering Maryland. I make that accusation due to the border tax Delaware levies on anyone taking Interstate 95 through its tiny territory (which I discussed in a previous article). I’ll forgive Delaware because part of the portion that stands between Maryland and New Jersey is no less than the Twelve Mile Circle itself, the namesake for this blog. Really! On the other side of New Jersey, all that separates it from Connecticut is, well, the New York City metropolitan area. I guess we can allow that.

Kansas presents the greatest number of near-misses based on my quick survey.



View Larger Map

Kansas is 34 miles away from Arkansas, 35 miles from Texas and 41 miles from Iowa. I’ve done that drive from Kansas to Iowa before, and indeed I can attest that it goes by very quickly on those rural highways running up from Kansas City. Also, Kansas comes close to bordering on New Mexico too although just outside of my arbitrary 50-mile limit.

The most interesting of the near-misses to me personally is distance between Illinois and Tennessee, only 33 miles. It’s difficult to reconcile the vast cultural separation between two of their primary cities, Chicago and Nashville.

This game can be extended to Europe too. I saw several likely candidates as I conducted an eyeball survey. The world record probably belongs to Namibia and Zimbabwe though, which are separated by Botswana by maybe a couple hundred yards at the tip of the Caprivi Strip.

On November 5, 2009 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “Almost Neighbors”

  1. Greg says:

    “Roughly precise” is a nice term. The Wakhan Salient between Tajikistan and Pakistan is a good case, as well as India between Bhutan and Nepal.

  2. Matthias says:

    Hey, I just took a look at your archives, and it doesn’t seem to be anything about Hyder, AK or the Diomedes Island… I love those places, you should write something about them!

    • I’ve been thinking about doing something on Hyder — was just looking at something a couple of days ago believe-it-or-not –probably combined with Haines and Skagway which are related situations (although obviously further away from the border). I’m not sure if I’ll discuss Big & Little Diomede though. It’s a pretty well known situation so I have mixed feelings about plowing that ground when others have already done it so well. Good suggestions, though.

  3. Jimble says:

    Shouldn’t the first entry in your list be, “West Virginia would border Pennsylvania if it weren’t for Maryland (2 miles)”?

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