Cross-Province Municipalities

On January 14, 2010 · 4 Comments

Usually towns that rest upon a border are distinct entities. They may have the appearance of a single contiguous municipality but often that’s deceiving. Two separate local governments actually administer the two separate portions. Kansas City along the Missouri/Kansas border comes to mind: one metropolitan area; same name; different municipal governments.

However there are two cities in Canada where this is not the case and coincidentally they both involve Saskatchewan. In both cases the cities cross provincial borders but have a single municipal government.


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Lloydminster straddles the border between Saskatchewan and Alberta, with the split taking place in a longitudinal line down 50th Avenue. As the story goes, the town was placed intentionally along the Fourth Meridian of the Dominion Land Survey. The founders did not know that this particular meridian was under consideration as the possible dividing line between two Provinces. When Saskatchewan and Alberta came into existence in 1905, having both been carved from the Northwest Territories, the line split cleanly through the middle of Lloydminster. The two provincial governments consented to a common municipal government for Lloydminster in 1930 and it remains that way for it’s 24,000 residents today.

I’m sure that Lloydminster is a lovely city but the Twelve Mile Circle is about oddities. I’ll spend a little more time talking about a place with even greater peculiarities.

Flin Flon

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There’s a similar situation in Flin Flon on the opposite side of Saskatchewan on its border with Manitoba although it happened more organically. It simply arose as a means for the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company to house workers for nearby copper and zinc mines. It’s also much less evenly split. Less than 300 of its 6,000 residents live in Saskatchewan.

There’s another unusual geographic feature here. Flin Flon sits astride one of the correction lines in the border between the two provinces (see the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan – Boundary Surveys). One doesn’t normally think of Saskatchewan as being south of Manitoba and generally that’s a safe bet. Usually it’s west. However, travel south down Main Street in Flin Flon and a visitor will experience this anomaly.

There is a third oddity in Flin Flon that you’ve probably already noticed: the city’s name. It’s based on a fictional character from a 1905 pulp-fiction novel by J. E. Preston Muddock, "The Sunless City: From the Papers and Diaries of the Late Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin." Flintabbatey and Flonatin were shortened to Flin Flon. Really. I’m not making this stuff up! Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, the fictional character, took a submarine ride into a bottomless lake in the Rocky Mountains where he passed through a tunnel of gold into a strange, subterranean land ruled by women. He escaped by climbing up through the crater of an extinct volcano.

Tom Creighton, a prospector, found a copy of the book in the wilderness and read it. Apparently it happened to be on his mind when he uncovered the huge deposit of ore. He equated his discovery to the the hole of gold from the novel and named the mine Flin Flon. The town came later, taking the same name.

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Anyone up for a road trip? Someone could reach both places in about twelve hours.

On January 14, 2010 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Cross-Province Municipalities”

  1. Matthew says:

    This entry reminds me of the cross-state town of New Pine Creek, in California/Oregon, which unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) would extend the road trip by several hundred miles. I may be able to hit this geo-oddity later this year. Check it out:

    • I enjoy posting new article to the Twelve Mile Circle, but I really enjoy the comments too! I knew nothing about New Pine Creek previously so now I have another unusual place to add to my wish list thanks to Matthew.

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      The sign says, Welcome to California… but is it???

      After poking around State Line Road in Street View it appears the town has seen better days but it’s still a bona fide geo-oddity.

  2. Ethan says:

    I had a childhood friend who took many fishing trips to the area around Flin Flon. At first I never believed him that it was the name. I think he had a copy of The Sunless City as well.
    I’ve always wanted to go! Sadly, I’ve just driven straight through Lloydminster on the TransCanada Highway as a child. I remember thinking how odd it was to have the one city cross the line. It was clearly marked.

  3. Steve says:

    Every Philadelphia Flyers fan worth his salt is very aware of Flin Flon.

    Bobby Clarke, who epitomized the Orange and Black, hailed from Flin Flon. Flin Flon is synomymous with Bobby Clarke and it sort of heralded a romance with far flung Flin Flon western Canadian towns.

    As a boy, I knew about Flin Flon by the time I was 6 and dreamt of long bus rides across frozen tundra perchance to play a hockey game there.

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