How much time have you spent contemplating that imaginary line that traverses the entire length of the US Canadian border? Perhaps you thought about how it would be to sneak across that vast swath of wilderness into one country from the other. It's just an imaginary line, right?

That is not the case at the US-Canadian border. In fact, from the very corner of Maine, and its border with New Brunswick, across to the Great lakes and then along the 49th parallel to the border between Washington State and British Columbia, and even at the border of Alaska as well, there is a 20-ft wide slash of defrosted land.


Maintained by both the US and Canadian governments, this 5,525 line is most certainly real even if the line it represents is less tangible.

History of the US Canadian Border

The defining of the US Canadian Border didn't happen overnight or without conflict. However, for the past one hundred years, the border between the US and Canada has remained quite firmly defined.

Pre War of 1812

Before the War of 1812, Anglo-American rivalry brewed in certain industries such as the fur trade. The northern border was an important issue in determining success in this industry. For this reason, it became more frequently disputed. The British conceded land to the US government in agreements like the Jay Treaty of 1794. However, in partnership with the first people of the area, the British resisted further expansion of the American Frontier. This would eventually lead to the breakout of the War of 1812.

Post War of 1812

After the conflict of the War of 1812, the British government would establish the border along the 49th parallel in 1818. This treaty would be extended several times, and despite a push from some in the US government to extend the border north to take large portions of what are today British Columbia and Alberta, the 49th parallel was formalized in 1849. The treaty was known as the Oregon Treaty and still defines the border between the US and Canada today.

Related: Road Tripping The Canadian Pacific Northwest In Two Weeks

Modern Relevance

In the late 19th century the Canadian government began to form as it seized its independence from both the British and corporate entities such as the Hudson Bay Company. One major border issue during Canada’s early years was the American purchase of Alaska. As the Alaskan purchase included many of the ports of entry into Yukon, Canada attempted to resist aspects of the purchase. Eventually, arbitration in 1903 by the British government would settle the issue even if the Canadian government was left dissatisfied. The result was the borders between the US and Canada that have been maintained until today.

Tourism to the Border

With so much land between the US and Canada, there are more than a few locations to explore. Here is a look at four stunning locations to check out.

Roosevelt Campobello International Park

This Canadian island is just across the border from Lubec, Maine. It was once a favorite spot for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family to visit. Sitting just 100 feet from the US border this is a relaxing destination where you can visit the 34-room cottage that has been maintained as a museum, and you can also visit the park for the “Tea with Eleanor” event and learn a little be about the history of the island.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

On the US side of the border in North Dakota, you can find the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Full of roaming wildlife from mustangs to bison grazing across the badlands. This is a lesser-known park that doesn’t see as many visitors as other national parks in the US, however, it is worth the visit, and you will be able to enjoy a quiet peaceful outdoor adventure.

Related: Ultimate Road Trip: Two Weeks In The Pacific Northwest

Niagara Falls

Perhaps the most famous border attraction, Niagara Falls sits along the border of Ontario and New York State, linked together by the Rainbow Bridge. The most expansive section is Horseshoe Falls which can be looked upon from its western Canadian border. Here you can take elevators to the tower to look down upon the falls. You can also view it from a wetter vantage point from behind the falls. The surrounding park features the Skylon Tower which offers a 520-ft observation deck.

San Juan Islands kayaking

Located next to the Canadian island of Vancouver, the US Suan Juan Islands are a wonderful destination for exploring the wildlife on land and on in the water. The waters here are full of orcas, lion seals, and puffins. You can kayak across this region and experience these creatures up close. There are also campsites on the islands that you can spend your nights at as you kayak through this region.

  • San Juan Outfitters Kayaking Trips (contact) - (866) 810-1483 or (360) 378-1962,
  • San Juan Outfitters Kayaking Trips (address) - 248 Reuben Memorial Dr. PO Box 325 Friday Harbor, WA 98250 US
  • San Juan Islands Website