The U.S./Canada Border Is the Most Bizarre Border in the World

The American-Canadian border is the longest in the world. It divides the North American continent along one continuous stretch from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans, with another weird section separating Alaska from mainland Canada.

The total length of the border across land and water is 8,891 km (5,525 miles) including the 2,477 km (1,396 miles) that run along Alaska’s edge.

What Makes It Bizarre:

While it is a huge stretch of land, that’s not really what makes it bizarre. Not even the fact that it’s unprotected makes it all that strange; there are big, undefended borders in lots of places, although it’s getting rarer all the time.

In order to understand why the border is so weird, we need to go back in time to see how the border was created.

Source : Wellcome Collection

We really have to go back to several times in history, because the border was — and still is — very much a work in progress.

After the 7 Years War:

This happens when you try to forge a line between two countries that weren’t yet fully developed, in a land that was not yet fully explored. The border between the nations actually predates the nations themselves.

After the 7 Years War, France renounced its possessions in North America in 1763. They gave all of what would eventually become Canada to the British, but kept the sugar-producing island of Guadalupe – they thought it was much more valuable than Canada, which Voltaire dismissed as “a few acres of snow.”

Source : Bazonka / Wikimedia

The next major border agreement came with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, after the American Revolution. American colonists made some efforts to take Canada from the British during the revolution, but were repelled.

Somewhere in the Great Lakes:

The dividing line between the Canadian colonies and the upstart American Republic was defined along the 45th parallel, separating New York from Quebec, and ending somewhere in the Great Lakes.

The area to the west was still largely a mystery and not covered by the agreement. But nobody calls the border the 45th parallel. The unofficial name of the border is the 49th parallel, which was the line of latitude that the western part of the continent was divided along after the War of 1812, from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains.


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