I went through a bit of an exercise to uncover the extreme eastern and western longitudes for each of the time zones in the Lower-48 United States, in Part 1. These points looked rather striking when I placed them in a map.
View Time Zone Extremes in a larger map
Now, let’s look a little closer at the eight points individually. I consider these reasonably accurate but "preliminary" because I did not perform exhaustive searches. I will gladly update this page and provide full credit if anyone finds locations more extreme.
Eastern Time Zone
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The easternmost extreme of the Eastern Time Zone is also the easternmost point of the continental United States; West Quoddy Head, Maine. It’s a tourist destination that many people visit and photograph. The actual spot is an otherwise insignificant rock just off the coast but let’s not belabor it. This is close enough for our purpose.
The westernmost extreme gets a bit more interesting and considerably more obscure. The time zone follows the western border of Ontonagon County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The border inexplicably cuts left just as it approaches Lake Superior’s shoreline and the point can be fixed where Ontonagon and Gogebic Counties hit the lakeshore (view on Mapquest).
Central Time Zone
I think I found the easternmost extreme of the Central Time Zone. It appears to be the eastern extent of Fentress County, Tennessee (view on Mapquest) north of Rugby along the banks of Clear Fork, a tributary of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. The boundary comes fairly close to this longitude as it passes through Florida but I think the spot in Tennessee is a tick further east after checking coordinates through trial-and-error.
Very few people are likely to visit the westernmost extreme of the Central Time Zone. It’s the point where Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio Counties in Texas all intersect with the Mexican border (view on Mapquest). That may sound familiar to long-time 12MC readers: we discussed this point previously in an entirely different context. I created this image using Google Earth for that earlier article. It shows why this will be a difficult place to visit.
Mountain Time Zone
The Mountain Time Zone extends all the way to the easternmost extreme of Dewey County, South Dakota, on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation (view on Mapquest). Other points nearby come tantalizingly close to this longitude so it may have a few rivals.
View Larger Map
Moving west in Mountain Time, the furthest extreme isn’t a point, rather it’s a line. The zone follows the western edge of Malheur County for awhile before cutting directly through the lower portion of the county. The western boundary appears as a straight line from a distance. Drilling in however, one observes minor stair-stepping so that the initial 3-4 mile stretch falls a few hundred feet further west than the rest of the "line" (view on Mapquest).
A minor Forest Service road happens to traverse the border along this short stretch, and amazingly, Google Street View provides coverage. You may be able to see the county line marker on the left side of the road if you open this in a larger image. Google Maps blurred the words on the sign but even so I don’t believe it mentions the time zone crossing.
Pacific Time Zone
There could be some debate on the easternmost extreme of the Pacific Time Zone, too. It appears to be a line that forms the preponderance of Nevada’s border with Utah and Arizona. Points along Idaho’s panhandle and the farthest reaches of southeastern California rival it though. My quick measurements suggest that they fall slightly short.
The Nevada border isn’t exactly straight. There are tiny jogs, nicks and surveying errors along its entire length. One spot likely extends a tiny amount further east than any of the others but I didn’t have the energy or inclination to find it. I know it’s no West Wendover because that’s the only place in Nevada officially in the Mountain Time Zone. I’ll edit the map if any reader wishes to undertake that mental exercise, but for now I’ll place it on the AZNVUT tripoint for convenience (view on Mapquest).
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The westernmost extreme falls along the Pacific Ocean coastline at Cape Alava, Washington, part of Olympic National Park and the Ozette Indian Reservation. As with its Atlantic counterpart, there are a few rocks and small islands further removed but I’m not going to count them.
Is there any wonder why I’m fixated on the Bibb – Monroe County dispute in Georgia? Now it involves restraining orders! This one keeps getting better and better.
I love it when categories collide and take me in entirely unanticipated directions. That’s what happened today. I noticed an interesting external search that bounced against my site: "What 2 state capitals are within 20 miles of a time zone boundary?" I’ve featured time zones many different times. I’ve also focused on the peculiarities of states. However I’ve never linked the two together so I decided to investigate this query further.
This should be pretty straightforward, I thought. Mapquest displays time zone markers and Google Maps provides a Great Circle distance utility. It shouldn’t take much effort to find the answers by toggling between the two.
Pierre, the capital city of South Dakota is the obvious initial choice that jumps right off the screen. This can be seen easily on Mapquest.
Notice how the yellow time zone line cuts straight through South Dakota. Pierre falls in Central Time, but a bridge over the Missouri River is all that separates it from Western Time. Perhaps the town on the western bank, Ft. Pierre follows Central Time informally (don’t know that for a fact but such affinity recognition is fairly common). Even it that’s the case it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Pierre doesn’t falls within 20 miles of a time zone boundary both formally and informally.
By the way, this is the first time I’ve noticed the "embed" option on Mapquest. This must be a feature that came with its new interface a few months ago. Nice. I’ll have to file that away for future reference.
The second state capital is a bit more problematic. I think it’s supposed to be a trick question with the answer being Juneau, Alaska. People tend to overlook Alaska and Hawaii on these types of trivia questions so they are an obvious choice for early consideration.
Again, focus on the yellow time zone indicator. In this case it happens to follow an international border, separating Juneau in the Alaskan Time Zone from British Columbia and Yukon in Canada, both following Pacific Time. There’s only one problem though: the distance is about 35 miles.
Maybe the person looking for the information got the question wrong? Perhaps that’s the case, but then consider that Bismarck, North Dakota is about the same distance from a time zone boundary or maybe even a little bit closer (about 32 miles – hard to tell). I never realized it before but there are a other state capital cities located fairly close to time zone boundaries too including Tallahassee, Florida at about 42 miles and Atlanta, Georgia at about 57 miles.
Pierre, SD is a no-brainer. The second part of the answer is either Juneau, AK, or Bismarck, ND or perhaps some other state capital that I’ve overlooked. Nonetheless it was a fun exercise and I hope our searcher finds his or her answer.
I mentioned at the beginning that Google Maps has a utility that provides Great Circle "as the crow flies" distances between two points. It’s a useful tool, and in case you haven’t seen it before you can find it easily enough from their front page by following these links in succession:
- My Maps
- Featured Content
- Distance Measurement Tool
I guess I’ve been feeling a little more curious than usual lately and I happened to spot the "I’m feeling geeky" option. Well, I’m often feeling geeky so I gave it a shot. There are a whole lot of units of measurement available that one can use to describe the distance from Juneau, AK to the Canadian border, whether useful, sublime, obsolete, or bizarre. 1145.28 Olympic Swimming Pool lengths, anyone?
- 35.5823 English Miles
- 57.2641 Kilometers
- 521.874 American Football Fields
- 1.62957e+8 American Printer’s Points
- 5.72641e+14 Ångströms
- 106001 Black Cubits
- 3.82787e-7 Astronomical Units
- 115423 Cubits of Lagash
- 128251 Babylonian trade Cubits
- 68318.0 California Varas
- 36455.4 Canas
- 1.52310e+8 Didot Points
- 109307 Egyptian Old Royal Cubits
- 127525 Egyptian Old Trade Cubits
- 154584 Egyptian Remen
- 108209 Egyptian Royal Cubits
- 31312.4 Fathoms
- 187875 Feet
- 284.658 Furlongs
- 123654 Greek Kyrenaika Cubits
- 120769 Greek Metrikos Cubits
- 103056 Ammatu Rabitu
- 2846.58 Gunter’s Chains
- 284658 Gunter’s Links
- 88060.6 Hashimi Cubits
- 2.25449e+6 Inches
- 133763 Jewish 1st Temple Cubits
- 128828 Jewish 2nd Temple Cubits
- 130860 Jewish 2nd Temple Sacred Cubits
- 10.3067 Leagues
- 114.528 Li
- 6.05283e-12 Light Years
- 57264.1 Meters
- 107350 Mesopotamian Nil-Cubits
- 30.9202 Nautical Miles
- 1145.28 Olympic Swimming Pools
- 1.85580e-12 Parsecs
- 109933 Pergamon cubits
- 114507 Persian Cubits
- 3.54304e+39 Planck Lengths
- 2.53006e+7 Potrzebies
- 1878.75 Ramsden’s Chains
- 11386.3 Rods
- 128820 Roman Cubits
- 38692.0 Roman Double-Paces
- 53.6784 Russian Verst
- 118314 Salamis Cubits
- 33645.2 Smoots
- 68506.0 Spanish Varas
- 110417 Sumarian Nippur cubits
- 67634.8 Texas Varas
- 2126.14 Vara chains
- 62624.8 Yards