Counting Border Crossings – Updated

On September 18, 2016 · 7 Comments

Several years ago, way back in November 2009, Twelve Mile Circle published an article called Counting Border Crossings. It revealed a new way to track travels suggested by loyal reader Jon Persky. Many people count countries, states, provinces, département, territories, counties or whatever. Jon’s method counted a place only when an adventurer traversed each border that it shared with every one of its neighbors. Refer to that original article for additional explanation. It’s not that complicated. Anyway, his analysis resulted in a comprehensive map of possible crossings for the internal state-level divisions of the United States.

Border Crossings 2016
Possible Border Crossings

The map included crossing between individual states as well as with provinces of Canada and states of México. Some efforts could be completed only by ferry as designated by green dots.


I seemed smitten with the concept at the time and I vowed to track my personal progress. Then I promptly forgot about it until I stumbled upon that old article recently. I still loved the premise and I decided to update my personal map. This is how it looks now.

Personal Border Crossings 2016
My Crossing Marked with Black Dots as of September 2016

In 2009 my tally stood at 75 crossings with only 6 states completed. My 2016 results improved to 95 crossings and 17 states completed without any conscious effort. I said at the time, and I still agree, that "this game is insidiously difficult… players have to cover large distances to complete even the smallest of states because the object is to work the perimeter." Many possibilities will also remain uncounted on my map until I take a lot more trips into Canada and México.

Those Geography-Based Running Trips

New England Marathon Series - Day 1
Pretending I’m a runner

The secret to my success happened by accident as I chauffeured a participant in several Mainly Marathons race trips. Longtime 12MC readers probably remembered the premise. These races catered primarily to a very specialized subset of marathoners who wished to complete a course in all 50 states. Others had completed literally hundreds of marathons and simply wanted to increase the lifetime totals. My participant specialized in half-marathons and insisted she was only "half crazy."

Each series featured back-to-back races in different state on subsequent days. For example, the New England Series I wrote about in May included seven races in seven days in seven states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York). I’d also served as driver for other races including the Center of the Nation, Riverboat and Dust Bowl series. All told, those races involved 23 separate states. The whole premise of race site selections focused on minimizing driving distance while crossing between numerous states, a perfect combination for Jon’s concept. How else would I reasonably expect to find a reason to cross between New Mexico and Oklahoma, as an example?

Shhh… don’t tell anyone. I actually started running the 5K’s each day beginning with the Center of the Nation series. That made me about 12% crazy by my calculations. It was the only way I could stop eating piles of snacks at the aid table as I waited for my runner to finish.

I Loved the Tripoints

KYTNVA Tripoint
KYTNVA Tripoint. My own photo.

Back then I said, "I haven’t even completed my own home state of Virginia where I’m missing its border crossing with Kentucky and I doubt that I’m going to get this one anytime soon." I couldn’t have been more wrong. Immediately thereafter I began an effort to capture every county and independent city in my beloved Commonwealth, although the effort lasted several more years. However, for this purpose, the quest drew me to the isolated counties at the far southwestern corner of Virginia. There I crossed the Kentucky-Virginia border at the KYTNVA Tripoint in 2013.

Other tripoints offered additional border crossing opportunities. I crossed Massachusetts-New York for the first time at the CTMANY Tripoint, thanks to Steve of CTMQ. I also leveraged an amazing three tripoints on the Dust Bowl trip for additional first-time crossings; Colorado-Oklahoma at CONMOK, New Mexico-Oklahoma at NMOKTX and Colorado-Kansas at COKSOK.


Wolf Island
Wolf Island on the KY/MO border. My own photo.

A couple of new crossings stood out above the rest. Kentucky-Missouri might have been the best. These two states shared a very short border along the Mississippi River. Anyone looking at a map would see that no road crossed the river anywhere between them. However, a dry-land border still existed! The river shifted at some point leaving a small part of Kentucky stranded on the Missouri side (map). It retained the curious name Wolf Island even though it wasn’t an island anymore. I found a gravel road leading to a pasture where I could cross from Missouri into Kentucky via Wolf Island. Any hour later I crossed between the two states again, this time over the Mississippi River on the scenic Dorena-Hickman Ferry (my video). I felt proud that I completed the border crossings using the only two means available, both creative and completely non-traditional.

A second favorite might have been my crossing between Utah and Nevada. I took the family to Utah in 2011. One morning, while the family slept, I decided to drive 150 miles (250 kilometres) each way from Ogden to West Wendover, Nevada. Why? To visit the only place in Nevada that legally recognized Mountain Time. That was completely nuts, and that’s what made it so memorable.

The Ones that Got Away

I paid a steep price when I forgot Jon’s game. A couple of opportunities wriggled away while I wasn’t paying attention. Last summer I went to Asheville, North Carolina and captured a slew of new counties. I was pretty close to Georgia and I could have snagged the Georgia-North Carolina crossing. I don’t know when I’ll get that chance again. Ditto for Nebraska-Wyoming and Montana-South Dakota when I took my Center of the Nation trip. Those may be too remote to hit without special effort, especially Montana-South Dakota. That one would require a drive over many miles of gravel road (street view). Missouri-Tennessee, on the other hand would have been an easy pickup. Alas I missed that opportunity too.

I still loved the concept. Maybe this time I won’t forget about it for several years. No promises.

On September 18, 2016 · 7 Comments

7 Responses to “Counting Border Crossings – Updated”

  1. Tom says:

    Interesting idea! I made one for my progress in crossing European country borders:

    If anyone wants to do the same thing, here’s the basemap:

    • January First-of-May says:

      You forgot the Azerbaijan-Turkey border. Though admittedly it might not be actually possible to cross legally.
      I’d only have 5 of those on my own list, and all five are apparently among the ones you don’t have yet (though I hadn’t been anywhere near one of them since age four).

      I am, however, rather seriously considering a similar map for Russian administrative regions (I’ll try to draw a basemap soon).
      Highlights include Moscow Oblast – Yaroslavl Oblast (several mile border, no major roads, on second thought not sure I actually did it), Moscow City – Kaluga Oblast (pretty easy, but Google Maps doesn’t know about that one yet), and Novgorod Oblast – Vologda Oblast (not that hard, but short-ish and out of the way of big roads; I did it on water).
      Oh, also, good luck crossing between Saratov Oblast and Orenburg Oblast. No one knows if that line exists or not. (Samara Oblast is on one side, Kazakhstan is on the other.)

      • January First-of-May says:

        EDIT: You also forgot Norway-Russia (not sure how, it’s pretty visible) and Spain-Morocco. (And I wonder if Finland-Estonia is a thing, distance looks short enough for a possible ferry.)

        There is also a border between France and Netherlands, but it won’t fit on this map, anyway.

  2. Jon P says:

    Hey Tom! Glad to see you are still chasing the dream. Our summer vacation to Quebec City this year came with hidden motives of crossing NH-QC and ME-QC as well as picking up two of the remaining three counties that I needed in New England. (We camped in Piscataquis County, Maine.) If I had extra time I would have made the 3-hour trip to Pohénégamook/Estcourt Station and from there crossed the QC-NB border.

  3. Fritz Keppler says:

    New Mexico-Sonora is maddening since they built the tall fence, I wish I had been aware of state line crossings (which includes county line crossings) back in Army days when there was a mere cattle fence defining the border.
    Florida-Bahamas is not on your map, I see, but the line is doable since there are day cruises to nearby islands. I need to cross that one from Miami-Dade as well as Broward Counties.
    Pennsylvania-Ontario and Illinois-Michigan are quite frustrating, I’ve already checked hiring a fishing boat to cross the latter, but they apparently are licensed only in their own states and will not cross the line even if no fishing is involved.
    Off-topic, late last month a friend and I rented a skiff from City Island in the Bronx in order to motorboat from there to Execution Rocks Lighthouse, thereby crossing the lines between Bronx-Nassau and Westchester-Nassau Counties. And weekend before last after the Notre Dame-Nevada Football game I drove down to the Wabash River below Terre Haute, finding a decent trail atop a small levee which traversed an old river bend now on dry land in order to cross the Clark IL-Sullivan IN line.

  4. Ross Finlayson says:

    “January First-of-May” asked: “I wonder if Finland-Estonia is a thing, distance looks short enough for a possible ferry”.

    Yes, indeed – there are frequent ferries between Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland. 3 hours each way. In fact, while I was on vacation in Tallinn last July, I spent a day making a day trip to Helsinki:

  5. Scott Surgent says:

    It appears you may be missing a dot for the Arizona-Baja California Norte border. The tiny section of southwest Arizona that juts below California would border BCN, this being the Colorado River here.

    If you want an Arizona-California land crossing, there’s a small part if Arizona to the north and west of the Colorado River, where the river bends west for a short ways before heading south again. Getting there is not easy, though.

    Also, I am a little confused why there is an extra dot near the Four Corners (AZ/UT/NM/CO). The topologist in me would also argue that the four corners is not really a border crossing at all. There is no border between Colorado and Arizona, and between Utah and New Mexico.

    Lastly, an esoteric one: the “border” between the United States and the nation of Kiribati. The US holds possessions (e.g. Jarvis and Palmyra Atolls) near the Kiribati “border”. The island of Tabuaeron in Kiribati is a cruise-stop so presumably many people have crossed this ocean border. But here, it would not be a state border so it may not fall into the spirit of this project.

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