Going to Extremes

Location, location, location...
Highest, oldest, first, smallest...
Center of the Nation
The geographical center of the 50 states is on a windswept patch of prairie about 20 miles from Belle Fourche, South Dakota, in the western part of the state. Below is the actual site of the Center of the Nation and the official monument at Belle Fourche.

Center of the 48 States
The geographical center of the 48 states is a pasture near in Lebanon, Kansas, in the north-central part of the state, just south of the Nebraska state line.

Population center of the U.S.
The U.S. population center, as calculated in the 2010 census, is Plato, Missouri (photo below, left), a shift of about 23 miles southwest from Edgar Springs, Missouri, the population center in the 2000 census. That's about 1,000 miles from the first center of population in 1790, near Chestertown, Maryland.

Geographical Center of North America
Rugby, North Dakota, marks the geographical center of North America. The monument is flanked by the U.S., Canadian and Mexican flags. A few blocks away is the Northern Lights Tower, an illuminated steel structure dedicated to the Aurora Borealis.

Easternmost point of the U.S.
Lubec, Maine, is the easternmost town in the U.S. The easternmost point is at West Quoddy Head. Below is the famous lighthouse at Quoddy Head on a foggy day.

Westernmost point of the Lower 48
Cape Alava, Washington, the westernmost point of the Lower 48, is a six-mile (round-trip) hike through part of Olympic National Park from the westernmost town of Ozette.

Northernmost point of the Lower 48
Northwest Angle, Minnesota, a fishing and boating paradise at the "Top of the Nation," is accessible by road through a corner of Manitoba, Canada. Make sure you have your passport and be prepared to spend time at customs stations. You also have to check in with U.S. and Canadian authorities via videophone (one of them is in a tiny shack, pictured here) when entering and leaving the Northwest Angle by road.

Southwestern-most point of the U.S.
Fifteen miles south of San Diego, in Border Field State Park, is the southwest corner of the United States. This beautiful spot on the ocean is accessible only on weekends, and it is advisable to call ahead to make sure the road isn't flooded. You can see the fence along the border with Mexico.

Southernmost city in the U.S.
This monument at Key West, Florida, used to include a statement that it is "90 Miles to Cuba." This is what the monument looked like in December of 2008. It does not mark the actual sothernmost point. The other photos show a beach at nearby Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, the southernmost point accessible to the public. The actual point is on U.S. Navy property.

Northernmost point in Alaska accessible by road
Prudhoe Bay is the northernmost point in Alaska accessible by road (you need a plane or dog sled to get to the other northernmost communities). It is the center of the North Slope oil production operations and is at the end of a 400-plus-mile, mostly gravel road through the wilderness called the Dalton Highway. For more on driving the Dalton, check out the "Ultimate Road Trip" link on the homepage.

Least-populated county in the U.S.
Loving County, Texas, is just under 700 square miles and has a population of 71, according to the U.S. Census. The only community is Mentone, which is uncorporated. You know you're in the wide-open spaces when the speed limit is 75 on a state road (Texas Highway 302).

Most remote county in the Lower 48
The U.S. Geological Survey says that Hinsdale County, Colorado is the most "remote" county in the contiguous U.S. There's a mind-numbing formula to reach that conclusion, but it has to do with roadless terrain per capita, among other things. It is a breathtakingly beautiful area known as a destination for outdoor-adventure enthusiasts.

Lowest of the Highest
This nondescript roadside park in the Florida panhandle near the Alabama state line marks Florida's highest point. At 345 feet in elevation, it's unique in that it is the lowest of the high points in the 50 states.

Longest railroad trestle in the U.S.
The veracity of this depends on whom you ask or what you read. But this railroad viaduct is supposedly the longest train trestle in the nation. It is in Greene County, Indiana, near the town of Solsberry. It is 180 feet high and 2,295 feet long.

Oldest operating year-round ferry in the U.S.?
There are other ferries, particularly in New England, that make the same claim. But Kentuckians believe that the Valley View Ferry may be the oldest continuously operating year-round ferry service in the United States. Located on State Route 169, the Valley View Ferry has crossed the Kentucky River since 1785, linking Fayette, Jessamine and Madison counties.

Longest covered bridge still standing in the U.S.
To be more specific, according to The Jackson County (Indiana) Visitor's Center, the Medora Covered Bridge at Medora, Indiana the longest 3-span covered bridge in the United States. It is 434 feet long, or 458 feet if you include the 12-foot overhangs.

Longest Main Street in America
Island Park, Idaho, boasts that it has the Longest Main Street in America (actually U.S. Highway 20). According to the City of Island Park website, 36.8 miles of Highway 20 are in the city. The views along the road are beautiful!

First 4th of July celebration...on the Plains
The first 4th of July celebration in New Mexico was observed by Santa Fe Trail traveler Josiah Gregg in 1831 at McNees Crossing, near Clayton, in the northeast corner of the state. The historical marker here goes a step further, noting that this is the site of the "first documented observation of the 4th of July on the plains."

World's smallest police station & post office
Both of these miniature government buildings are in Florida. There's a great (but kinda long) story about a phone booth in Carrabelle, Florida, known as the World's Smallest Police Station. Here's a picture of the tourist attraction in the coastal Panhandle town. In Ochopee, Florida, on the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades, is the World's Smallest Post Office. Supposedly. There's gotta be another one this size somewhere.

World's largest spruce
-- and the farthest-north spruce
This is a tale of two trees. The world's largest Sitka spruce (apparently) at Lake Quinault in Washington state has a circumference of 58 feet, 11 inches; diameter of 18 feet, 9 inches; and is 191 feet tall. Meanwhile, a scrawny spruce in Alaska also has a claim to fame. The Farthest North Spruce Tree is about 120 miles above the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway. (See the "Ultimate Road Trip" link on the homepage for more info on Dalton Highway.)

America's most diverse estuary
The Indian River Lagoon extends 156 miles on Florida's east coast. It is billed as America’s most diverse estuary and has more than 4,000 species of animals and plants. These photos were taken near Sebastian.

Four states, one place
This spot in the American Southwest, called the Four Corners, is the only place in the country where four states converge at a single point. You can stand in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico at the same time.

Four states, one county
Cimarron County in the Oklahoma Panhandle is the only county in the United States that borders on four states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas. Pictured here is Black Mesa in Cimarron County, which is also Oklahoma's highest point.

More to come!