Closest Border Monuments — Found!

On March 2, 2010 · 4 Comments

I wrote recently about the many thousands of tiny segments that form the boundary between Canada and the United States in an article I called, Canada-USA Border Segment Extremes. I’d been following up on a query from loyal reader "Greg" who asked if I knew where he could find the shortest of those segments. He’d seen a reference to two monuments only 46 centimetres (18 inches) apart when he read the International Boundary Commission website. However it didn’t provide a location.

As an intellectual exercise, I loaded all of the boundary coordinates into a spreadsheet and attempted to derive the answer mathematically. It wasn’t exact but I felt I’d narrowed the location down to two distinct clusters. I said at the time that, "I’m going to guess the 46 centimeter distance between two monuments falls within the eastern cluster." It turns out I was correct but it was a lucky guess.

View Border Length Extremes in a larger map
This was my original map

Greg took a more direct approach and contacted someone on the International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States, based on contact information he found on the boundary commission site. They have a different purpose than the International Boundary Commission but they still have a keen interest in the physical placement of the border:

Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission because they recognized that each country is affected by the other’s actions in lake and river systems along the border. The two countries cooperate to manage these waters wisely and to protect them for the benefit of today’s citizens and future generations.

He struck gold. He received word back that it’s Monument 484 and it’s often called the "Double Monument." I looked it up and this corresponds to a single combined monument of that number in the Highlands data set at N 45° 15.168, W 071° 12.291. Thus, my mathematical calculation never would have found the right answer because the two are considered a single entity.

Google Streetview stopped maybe a hundred metres from the monument on the US side of the boundary; otherwise I’d have a great image for you. Mapquest provided the best satellite view and I’ve reproduced that one above. One can easily see where the border has been cleared through the vegetation. The double monument is located right along the roadside at a small pullout between the two border stations. It appears as a dot.

This route looks to be the primary border crossing, maybe the only crossing, between Québec (where it’s Route 257) and New Hampshire (where it’s US Route 3 – Daniel Webster Highway). The monument should be easy to find. Hiking through miles of forest will not be necessary. This is the kind of lazy geo-oddity that I enjoy. It means I might actually visit it someday.

Double Monument on Canada USA Border

Greg’s source provided a copy of a page from a book which included a couple of vintage photographs of the double monument. I don’t have the exact citation, just the single page, but the top of the page reads: "SEASON OF 1916 — THE HIGHLANDS" and it’s listed as page 69. Greg did some more digging and believes it may be the “Joint report upon the survey and demarcation of the boundary between the United States and Canada from the source of the St. Croix River to the St. Lawrence River….” published in 1925 by the International Boundary Commission. That sounds about right.

Meeting at the Double Monument

I also found the double monument in The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site which included information provided by people who have visited the Double Monument in person. There are some modern photographs along with the same two vintage photos I’ve posted here. It’s amazing how easy it was to find on the Intertubes once we knew it had a name.

There seem to be several stories purporting to explain the unusual nature of the double monument. I think I’ll go with the one that Greg got from the official source: "Two monuments were set 18 inches apart to mark an astronomic station from the survey of 1845. When the boundary was being retraced and they were found in the early 1900’s they were local landmarks and were reset in the same base."

Thanks, Greg!

On March 2, 2010 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Closest Border Monuments — Found!”

  1. Greg says:

    No problem whatsoever. A few follow-up points:

    1) I had no idea until I saw it here that the person who emailed me back wasn’t, strictly speaking, from the IBC. Great catch. However, the American sides of the IBC and the IJC occupy the same floor of the same building in DC, so I didn’t miss by much.

    2) I also, at the same time, contacted the top Canadian person on the IBC’s contact page. If he gets back to me, maybe he’ll include something further.

    3) The border in this area is fairly circuitous, probably following hill crests or something like that. After eyeballing for a couple minutes, it looks like Mapquest and Google both draw the border in the exact same way, and that this way (when compared to the visually-apparent vista cleared out along the border) isn’t quite right. It smooths out the border’s twists and turns, spending some time north of the vista and some time south of it. I wonder what this presumably single data source is, and why they don’t use the IBC’s massive waypoint list. One suspects that that list would result in a more accurate drawn line.

    4) I’m not really outdoorsy, but I bet a hike along that cleared-out vista would be very cool, especially in this area where the border changes directions so often and boundary monuments would be plentiful. I don’t know if that sort of thing is allowed though.

    5) I used Google Books for the book cite; I just inputted “season of 1916 the highlands” into the search and immediately got the cited book as a result.

  2. E.C. says:

    Re 4)–ooh, that WOULD be awesome–can you find out if it is in fact allowed? I figure it has to be, since how else would there be so many photos of the monuments on, say, Panoramio…

    • E.C.: Re 4). I’m going to guess that it’s entirely possible. Follow the link to the Geocaching site, above, and for example there is a quote from an actual visitor to the area who said: I just got back from a 5 day hiking trip to the Boundary Range – the ridge line that forms the border between the US and Canada along New Hampshire and western Maine. The area is very remote and the only passage in most parts of the area is over dirt logging roads. I drove up Wednesday and crossed over to Woburn Quebec which is a few miles past the Coburn Gore Maine border crossing, where US Route 27 crosses into Canada. I hiked Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday from the Canadian side and then Friday night crossed into Pittsburg New Hampshire where US Route 3 terminates.

      You might start by contacting some of the people on that site who have visited this area before and see if they can provide any words of wisdom or advice.

  3. JadeDragon says:

    I love this stuff. I visited Stewart BC where you can enter Hyder Alaska without any US side controls. There is a Canadian post though and some people have gotten stuck in the US without proper documents according to the lonely border guard.

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