USA Time Zone Anomalies, Part II

I outlined a couple of odd time zone anomalies within the United States in Part I, and here I continue the effort with several more examples. While none of these are quite as extreme as the Idaho instance discussed in the last installment — although one of them comes pretty close — they all represent places where one can travel due East and have to turn a clock backwards rather than forward. In other words, exactly the opposite of what one would normally expect. The phenomenon is localized but it exists and can be experienced firsthand.

In the United States, responsibility for time zone definitions is reserved for the Federal government. States may chose to recognize Daylight Saving Time or not, but they cannot alter time zone boundaries. Those are defined by Title 49 of the United States Code which relate to matters of transportation. Specifically we look to Subtitle A, Part 71. I am going to quote directly from the USC below, so prepare yourself. It will either fascinate you or bore you to tears. You can always enjoy the pictures and ignore the text.

Anomaly in North Dakota

The situation appears in a couple of spots south of the Arnegard/Watford City/Mandaree area and near the northern unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Here the boundary between Mountain and Central Time follows the the Little Missouri River. No roads appear to cross the boundary at either anomaly so a visitor would have to conquer these on foot, or more properly, by kayak or canoe.

Time Zone Anomaly in North Dakota

Here’s the legal description:

..southerly along the Montana-North Dakota boundary to the Missouri River; thence southerly and easterly along the middle of that river to the midpoint of the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers; thence southerly and easterly along the middle of the Yellowstone River to the north boundary… [through a bunch of township grids points but I don’t have a good map to show any of that] … thence south to the middle of the Little Missouri; thence easterly and northerly along the middle of that river to the midpoint of its confluence with the Missouri River…

Anomaly in Michigan

A better example can be found in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Focus on the town of Paulding which is right in the middle of it. Da Yoopers don’t think much of the rest of the state, in fact they often consider themselves a separate state It’s natural they might have more affinity with their Wisconsin neighbors in Central Time than someone hundreds of miles away in Detroit in Eastern Time. Indeed, a large slice of the southern Upper Peninsula follows Central Time. County borders provide a dividing line. A little jog in lower Ontonagon County creates the time conundrum. There are any number of roads in the southeastern part of the county where the phenomenon could be experienced, driving due east into neighboring Iron County.

Time Zone Anomaly in Michigan

In case you want the gory details:

…to the west line of Ontonagon County; thence south along the west line of Ontonagon County to the north line of Gogebic County; thence southerly and easterly along the north line of Gogebic County to the west line of Iron County; thence north along the west line of Iron County to the north line of Iron County…

Anomaly in Kentucky

Next we move onto Kentucky where once again the anomaly exists. Here the boundary between Central and Eastern Time also follows county lines. Taylor County swings down in a "V" shape, so a traveler driving through the lower part of the county into Adair County would be in for a surprise if she didn’t know the secret. Coburg, KY would be a good starting point, just south of this remarkable spot.

Time Zone Anomaly in Kentucky

This one’s pretty easy to describe:

…thence southeasterly along the west (southwest) lines of Taylor County and northeasterly along the east (southeast) line of Taylor County…

Anomaly in Florida

And now the best. The border between Central and Eastern Time gets really bizarre through the Florida Panhandle. A whole prong of Eastern Time exists west of Apalachicola and runs half way up to Panama City. It offers several opportunities to experience the anomaly first-hand. Notice the tiny spike north of Beacon Hill. There’s even a town located within the sliver and it’s called Overstreet. You can see the phenomenon pretty well in this satellite image (although the town is actually across the river to the LEFT of the star). Overstreet sits in Eastern Time but it’s hemmed-in tightly by Central Time on three sides! That’s because it’s wedged between the Intracoastal Waterway and the western edge of the Gulf County line which in combination defines the time zone border through this corner.

Time Zone Anomaly in Florida

More precisely:

…thence westerly along the center of the Jackson River to its intersection with the Intracoastal Waterway; thence westerly along the center of the Intracoastal Waterway to the west line of Gulf County; thence southerly along the west line of Gulf County to the Gulf of Mexico.

I’m sure there are more examples but these were the obvious ones that jumped out during my quick survey.

8 Replies to “USA Time Zone Anomalies, Part II”

  1. Lots of places in southern New England have no county government, and towns have generally preceded counties in history. None the less, people do identify with their “county”, even in Rhode Island. Just ask people about “South County”, shown on maps as Washington County.

    1. This is about six years late, but I spent roughly the first 40 years of my life in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. That would be in what everybody in RI calls “South County”. And yes, it is Washington County. In fact, not far from where I lived is the town line between North Kingstown and East Greenwich, which is also the county like between Washington County (North Kingstown) and Kent County (East Greenwich). But, you would not know you are changing counties as no signs tell you that. Rhode Island actually has five counties in it – Bristol, Newport, Providence, Kent and Washington. Of note, Bristol County RI is bordered by Bristol County, MA.

      My brother lives in Braintree, MA and I told him what county he lives it by living there (Norfolk County). Now, I live in Sanford, Florida (the county seat of Seminole County) and you know what county you are in here. There are signs everywhere at the county line that say “Entering Seminole County”, and I see Seminole County Sheriff cars out a lot. In fact, the northern city limit is on the Seminole-Volusia county line, and there are signs depending on which county you are going into. I am surrounded by counties called Orange, Volusia and Lake. County government is completely foreign in New England.

  2. I have petitioned the Obama administration to look into re-aligning the time zones. This would include the lower 48 states and Alaska. Time zone boundaries need to be shifted east by about 100 nautical miles. And oddball boundaries, such as in ND, ID, IN, KY, FL would be shifted on a north-south axis and those boundaries would be placed further east.
    Extending eastern time or central time further west, in combination with the use of time shifting DST allows for exceptionally late sunsets in June-July. And exceptionally late sunrises in October and March. Especially those folks that live in the western part of their respective time zones.
    Why should we continue to allow the time zone to “drift” further west due to constant
    complaining of folks? They want their town to be on the same time zone as further east?
    Then move the time zone further east, not west. I venture to guess that most folks want morning daylight to come earlier. Not the post 8am sunrises we start to see in mid October and mid March. Cities like New York, Chicago, and Denver don’t have that problem. But cities like Detroit, Bismarck, and Salt Lake City do. Those latter cities can fix that problem by having the time zone pushed further east by 100 nmi or greater.
    For example, Detroit has no business observing Eastern time. They are midwest,
    and that means Central time. Same story for Indianapolis.
    Have also suggested to the President that DST stop being observed after the final Sunday of September. And observe it again
    starting the first Sunday in May. That is true “summer time.”

    1. Great idea Bob. I noticed in the past, when I lived in Arizona and would go to Las Vegas in the winter, that it was getting dark at about 4:30 p.m. That is ridiculous!!

  3. Where exactly is the Time Zone boundary near Chattanooga? It appears to run along the city limits, seem like it should be in a less populated area.

    1. This is a different subject, but my parents live in Sevierville, near Knoxville. A drive to Nashville is about a 180 mile drive, and roughly about 3 hours. If they drive to Nashville, they lose an hour and it only takes about 2 hours. If they come home from Nashville, they gain an hour and it takes about 4 hours. Same mileage, just crossing a time zone line makes the difference.

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