Point Roberts – Stranded by an International Border

On May 21, 2009 · 22 Comments

Point Roberts, Washington cannot be reached by land from the rest of the United States. One must drive first into Canada, curve around Boundary Bay, and then cross the border again to re-enter the United States at this remote corner.


Point Roberts
Point Roberts, Washington borders Canada only


The establishment of a border between the United States and Canada along the 49th parallel cut straight through the bottom tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula. The stranded southern land on the wrong side of the cut became Point Roberts.



View Larger Map

To locate this anomaly on a map, look at the straight-line border between Washington State and the Province of British Columbia. Point Roberts is located just before the zigzag south around Vancouver Island.


Picnic Shelter
Boardwalk and Shelters at Lighthouse Marine Park


All of the photographs on this page were taken along the Strait of Georgia at Whatcom County’s Lighthouse Marine Park. This can be found at the far southwestern corner of Point Roberts. The wooden structures shown here were part of the park’s boardwalk facility. Wooden alcoves built onto the boardwalk protected picnic tables from wind or sun. Nobody else braved the elements during our weekday visit to the park. Everyone seemed to be scared away by this cold, blustery wind pushing across the Strait.


Beacon
Navigational Beacon at Point Roberts


Lighthouse Marine Park is a bit of a misnomer. There’s no longer a lighthouse at this location, having been replaced long ago by a functional but unromantic navigational beacon. There is now an effort underway to build a new lighthouse at this scenic spot. It would be a nice addition to an already pleasant seascape. Plus, a lighthouse in place of this beacon would sure make for better photographs.


Strait of Georgia
Strait of Georgia View


Point Roberts is supposed to be one of the greatest land-based spots in the region for whale watching. Orca pods swim regularly past the point in one direction or another in their constant search for food. That’s what they say, anyway. We saw lots of beautiful nautical scenes across the width of the Strait to the San Juan Islands and their Canadian equivalents, but we didn’t see any whales that day.

I am so fascinated by strange geography that we actually crossed international borders between the United States and Canada four times in a single day to reach this spot and return.

On May 21, 2009 · 22 Comments

22 Responses to “Point Roberts – Stranded by an International Border”

  1. Looking at that map, what I find interesting is how close the Tsawwassen ferry terminal is to the border. I departed there on a ferry a couple of years ago, and there’s no indication that you’re only a few meters from the U.S. There must be some agreement between the countries to let the BC Ferries cross U.S. waters so often.

  2. Dave says:

    Im pretty sure theres some famous or semi-famous hockey player who lives there – hes an American, but plays for the Vancouver team.

  3. Bennett says:

    As long as the ferries embark and disembark there is no problem and they usually stay in Canadian waters. The International Boundary Commission with members from both the US and Canada work out the agreements so there would be no border disputes. They just put new border markers in the Georgia Strait and Boundary Bay. The marker for the west side by Monument Park is only a couple hundred feet off shore. The ferry terminal is over 1 mile from that point. The stranger thing about Point Roberts is driving through the town of Tsawwassen on 56th St. with its businesses and development and then coming to the border crossing and the rural solitude of Point Roberts . A local resident once told me that the Point was politically American, geographically Canadian and culturally both. I look forward to living there full time.

    • ANNELLE says:

      Hi, Bennett!

      I wonder if you have moved to Point Roberts and if so, how you are liking it? I am planning to do the same thing within the next few months and would love to connect.

      Hoping you are enjoying a wonderful, serene Point Bob day!
      Annelle

  4. Bennett says:

    Hockey players Alexander Mogilny and Pavel Bure lived there but they are both Russian. Not sure if they took on American or Canadian citizenship.

  5. Rob says:

    The ex general manager, Dave Nonis lives on Pt Roberts with his family

  6. dave says:

    This hockey player living in Point Robert’s, but working for a Canadian team, is all about retaining or qualifying for American citizenship status. If they retain an American address and can prove that they actually do ‘go there’, which is easy to do from Vancouver to Point Roberts, these people can save a pile of money in taxes etc….. They do get paid in American $$$$$$.

  7. Bob says:

    On Google Map it looks like there are some Canadian side houses on the norhteast end that are divided by the borderline or is that just a quirk in the way the line is laid in on the graphic?

    • Bob, it may be a quirk. I’ve noticed other instances where Google Map borders are very, very close but not exact. I’d lean towards that theory as there seems to be a well-defined fence line just a few feet south of it. I checked Mapquest too — they seem to put the border along the fence, too.

  8. I share your fascination with odd geography and interesting places. Point Roberts is largely owned by Canadians. It is supported by Canadian water and Canadian fire trucks provide backup fire protection. Many of the residents of Point Roberts see the community as the ultimate gated community protected by US Homeland Security. Every so often the American authorities lure some crook into Point Roberts for an arrest, the most recent was a scammer running dating websites that is being charged with mail fraud. That guy was collecting all his checks at the post office in Point Roberts (sounds like he is Canadian).

  9. Steve-Florida says:

    We visited the border at the end of August, while exiting our cruise ship in Vancouver. Took pictures, etc. on the border. I’m originally from Mass., and it was nothing special to visit friends/relatives in Canada. Our two nations have much to be thankful for, as well as sharing common values and respect for each other.

    Canada has tremendous natural beauty and opportunity. I was amazed at the cultural diversity in Vancouver, and had many discussions with people who had come from Hong Kong, Vietnam, Scotland, Australia, to make Vancouver/Canada, their home.

    The US and Canada could not have better neighbors!

  10. Max Sanchez says:

    The USA and Canada SHOULD be just one country!

  11. 777dove says:

    Hey Max—— ONLY if Canada drops the Queen and becomes a democratic republic governed by the Constitution. I will never bow to a queen or king.

  12. lol americans says:

    777dove

    you’re joking right? the whole royal family thing is just a… nicety. there is no real power there.

    how about ONLY if you start to get a better health care system, among a plethora of other issues

  13. jambush says:

    I’m from Tsawwassen, the town in Canada opposite Point Roberts, and I go there alot to walk my dog and to get gas (it is significantly cheaper). The Canadian houses that are on the border (Wallace St.) are all on the Canadian side, but only a ditch is stopping them from crossing, which undermines the border crossing. Apparently they got it wrong, the border should be 100m to the south or so. Also, I have friends who live on the American side, right next to the border crossing on the American side. The road is blocked there, though, so the have to take the long way around. (Johnston Rd. T think)

    • Whatcom County also contains the northernmost point on the “49°” line, which was surveyed to the standards of its time! (The southernmost is in Montana/Alberta.)

      I once heard a Whatcom County animal control officer say, “I hate getting calls to the Point — it always takes all day.”

  14. rewob says:

    I discovered Point Roberts on a map 20 yrs ago and at first thought it was a mistake. I wish I had discovered it before as I had been in Vancouver in 1988 and would have gone, but living in UK it seems a big leap. When I get to the West coast again it is about top of my list to visit he Point. Will I be disappointed?

    • Matt says:

      Hi rewob!

      My partner and I visited for the first time last year after having taken the Tsawwassen ferry to Nanaimo. We went only to say that we’ve been to an exclave of the United States and out of sheer curiosity to see what it’s like there. I was happy that we did made the short crossing! There’s really not much to do there, and very few places to eat, but it’s a pretty drive around the point and it’s very interesting to see peoples’ homes built right up to the international border! I’d go back again for sure, just for fun, but if I were you, I would surely wait for another good reason to make the trek to the west coast of North America, and then visit Point Roberts. You won’t be disappointed, unless Point Roberts is your SOLE reason for the trip! LOL

  15. soesoe says:

    Point Roberts is very beautiful, surrounded by blue waters, Islands and the mountains. Point Roberts enjoys glorious sunrises and sunsets. Unless you are a dual citizen or you have a job that allows you to work mostly from your home this is a tough place to make a living! Unfortunately the border line ups have become increasingly long because so many Canadians are coming down to buy gas, milk, eggs and cheese. More pressure needs to be put on the border authorities to reduce waiting times for local residents. It has become very inconvenient for full time residents to get in and out of the Point – if there were more services in Point Roberts leaving would become less necessary. It’s a chicken and egg situation down here….
    Come visit some time – bring your walking and walking shoes or your bike to enjoy the scenery.

    • Roy L says:

      Hi, Is it easy for residents of Point Roberts to pass back and forth to Canada to go to the mainland US? Is it possible they could be refused by Canada?

      Cheers!

  16. Roxy! says:

    I just found out about this gem from my boss. I would love to live here! Thank you for your insights 🙂

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