Missisquoi Bay Exclave

On February 9, 2010 · 8 Comments

Often a question once answered leads to another question on the Twelve Mile Circle. I’d no sooner analyzed the thousands of separate border segments between Canada and the United States when I stumbled upon a a very small US exclave that I’d never noticed before. It’s located on Missisquoi Bay, an extension of Lake Champlain situated between the Canadian province of Québec and the US state of Vermont.

I mentioned it briefly in one of my comments on that article. I’d like to spend a little more time exploring it now that I have an opportunity to focus some attention here.

View Larger Map

It’s not very large. I’m going to estimate based on a quick eyeball measurement that it’s about 400 feet x 200 feet (120 metres x 60 metres). That would be just about the right size for a "football" field (the US version or the rest-of-the-world version) and not much else. One thing I also learned from my earlier border examination is that Google Maps draws the boundary slightly wrong. The true border extends through that little white dot — which I assume is a boundary marker — just south of where Google draws it.

I won’t complain about Google although I’ve sometimes done that in the past. I have a new appreciation for the mathematics and the massive data manipulation taking place behind the scenes for those maps to exist. The speed at which they recognize new information is nothing short of amazing too. I’d already received the first search engine hit focusing on "Missisquoi Bay Exclave" no more than twelve hours after I’d posted the new-to-me discovery.

Access should be fairly simple for US citizens wishing to visit this minuscule stranded corner of the United States. The easiest path would involve a waterborne approach. There are a bunch of houses on the US side with boat docks that might be only a mile away from this geo-anomaly. Direct access and no border crossing necessary!

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There are also the Highgate State Park, the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge and tons of little villages all within the immediate vicinity. It shouldn’t be too difficult to rent a boat or hire a local resident departing from one of those locations to ferry an explorer to the tiny exclave.

The land approach would also be possible although it would involve a border crossing.

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This is the border station as viewed from the Canadian side at Saint-Georges-de-Clarenceville in Québec’s Regional County Municipality of Le Haut-Richelieu. It looks like a pretty sleepy place. There’s probably minimal hassle assuming a visitor arrives at the station with proper identification. Explaining the situation might be interesting, though. I remember getting a strange look from a border guard when I traveled to the Point Roberts exclave and it’s a much more widely known anomaly.

Sometimes these stories amuse the guards. Many years ago and long before the Eurozone relaxed its border crossings between western European countries, I took a short circle route from Luxembourg to Germany to France and back into Luxembourg. At the time it was my first ever visit to Germany. I think I made the border guard’s day when I informed him that I’d planned to be in his country for only ten or fifteen minutes.

Nonetheless it might be a good idea to find another plausible, truthful reason if only to avoid the hassle of explaining your geo-oddity proclivities in detail to a law enforcement officer. Maybe combine your adventure with a day-trip to Montréal and use this route as a way to avoid either of the busy crossings on the Interstate Highways immediately west and east?

Public roads within the small settlement on the immediate Canadian side will get one to within a half-mile of the target. From there it would be necessary to trudge east along the lakeshore. There also appears to be an even closer approach using a smaller village due north of the exclave. This would require a quick traipsing across what appears to be a farm. Either way it would probably be necessary to trek across private property so bear that in mind when contemplating a land approach.

Others have traveled here before so it shouldn’t be impossible to replicate the journey. In fact, here’s a photograph of the anomaly from Panoramio, and another, and one more.

On February 9, 2010 · 8 Comments

8 Responses to “Missisquoi Bay Exclave”

  1. Greg says:

    I figure that only people like us will care that Google Maps draws its borders a few score feet off. However, it can be handy:

    It appears that Street View cars use Google’s not-quite-perfect country-border data to know when to stop taking pictures after they cross into a country that doesn’t allow pictures to be taken. This is clear in the Baarle area, where Belgium won’t allow any pictures. BUT, since Google’s data is off by a matter of feet, you can find pictures that were clearly taken (a few feet) inside Belgium, as evidenced by boundary monuments on the side of roads and such. I spotted similar things along the US-Canada border before Canadian pictures were published, and I’m sure they’re elsewhere, too.

    Also: any clue as to why Google doesn’t show county boundaries? It’s aware of counties: if you search for “Arlington County, VA” or “Cuyahoga County, OH” it shows the area, properly zoomed. Why not put the lines on the map?

    • I had a great time poking around Baarle-Nassau recently (thanks for the tip a couple weeks ago). I spent probably an hour or more wandering up and down those streets. I saw many of the boundary monuments but I also enjoyed the little signs they put-up on random light posts and buildings right on the border, too. Like this one:

      Grotere kaart weergeven

      In reference to the county lines: I have an idea. See my posting later today.

  2. Matthias says:

    Funny thing, if you take the map not as a satellite but as a plan, the exclave is an island.

  3. Steve says:

    Personal story: ‘Twas late Septemeber 2001 and I had taken my then girlfriend to Montreal for a long weekend. The purpose of that trip was to return with a fiancee (I did).

    As this was about 2 weeks after 9/11, the crossing back into the US on a Sunday was backed up for miles, so I took out a map and used my intuition to navigate back roads (east, not west to your example) to ultimately find a crossing like the one pictured.

    There was no line at all (saved us probably 2 hours in the end, and the drive down through backwoods VT was lovely) but the agents were DEADLY serious. This is expected at the I-89 crossing, but it was so out of place alone in the woods. It was really, really weird in that context, trust me. We got the 5th degree, “why are we ‘sneaking’ in to the US on this goatpath, so you (my wife) weren’t born in the US, huh?” etc.

    It was crazy! And even when I explained to them that the back up at the interstate was hours-long (as they surely knew) and I sought to avoid that mess, they treated me like an evil genius with this nefarious plan to do something terrible.

    Ultimately, after dogs, mirrors and hands checked through the entire car and luggage, we were let through. I guess that’s what, ahem, “Bored-er” Agents have to do sometimes out in teh middle of nowhere.

  4. George Brown says:

    Great blog! I think the official name of this exclave is “Vermont Province Point” See: http://wikimapia.org/2203373/Province-Point

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