Friday, June 19, 2009
At The Lake
It's the middle of my yearly pilgrimage to Minnesota lake country. It's beautiful here, and while I'm spending much of my time working, at least I'm looking at the lake while doing it.
I'm also reading an excellent book: How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein. While I'm always skeptical about books on somewhat academic subjects written by non-academics (I think he's a playwright), it's a thoroughly enjoyable book that gives a brief overview of the history, geography, and geometry of state boundaries. As I like all three of those things, I'm totally hooked. It turns out that many of the decisions about state boundaries were made based on two main ideas - water rights and state equality. For example, why does Minnesota have the northeastern corner, known as the arrowhead, in which I am currently looking at a lake? Why isn't that Wisconsin or possibly Canada? It's all about access to the Great Lakes and through them the Atlantic Ocean - the Minnesota arrowhead was shaped precisely so that Canada, Wisconsin, and Minnesota all have access to Lake Superior. On the other hand, why that specific boundary taking a southeast course from the Lake of the Woods to Superior? The book just says that it follows the boundaries of a set of lakes, but up here there are a whole lot of lakes. I have to wonder whether the boundary was really chosen to be where it is today, or whether no-one noticed or cared since the area was, and is, mostly uninhabited. The region is now part of an international/national park - the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The only way in is by canoe. I'll hopefully make a day trip in sometime next week.