Northland : a 4,000-mile journey along America's forgotten border

by Porter Fox

Hardcover, 2018




New York : W. W. Norton & Company, [2018]


"America's northern border is the world's longest international boundary, yet it remains obscure even to Americans. The northern border was America's primary border for centuries--much of the early history of the United States took place there--and to the tens of millions who live and work near the line, the region even has its own name: the northland. Travel writer Porter Fox spent three years exploring 4,000 miles of the border between Maine and Washington, traveling by canoe, freighter, car, and foot. In Northland, he blends a deeply reported and beautifully written story of the region's history with a riveting account of his travels. Setting out from the easternmost point in the mainland United States, Fox follows explorer Samuel de Champlain's adventures across the Northeast; recounts the rise and fall of the timber, iron, and rail industries; crosses the Great Lakes on a freighter; tracks America's fur traders through the Boundary Waters; and traces the forty-ninth parallel from Minnesota to the Pacific Ocean. Fox, who grew up the son of a boat-builder in Maine's northland, packs his narrative with colorful characters (Captain Meriwether Lewis, railroad tycoon James J. Hill, Chief Red Cloud of the Lakota Sioux) and extraordinary landscapes (Glacier National Park, the Northwest Angle, Washington's North Cascades). He weaves in his encounters with residents, border guards, Indian activists, and militia leaders to give a dynamic portrait of the northland today, wracked by climate change, water wars, oil booms, and concerns over border security."--Dust jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Northland is the border with Canada and the second longest border in the world. The author travels by car and boat from Maine to Washington. It is a travelogue, but also includes a fair amount of history which is unfortunate because that part is not very good, like filler. The author Porter Fox is from Maine and a competent writer in the NYC scene, in his 30s. It wasn't really an adventure of serendipitous discovery, more like a self-imposed writing assignment with prearranged itineraries and meet-ups, on the journalistic side. It's a decent book to learn more about the border region. The culture of northern Maine has spread westward to the Great Plains. Some of the most remote and wild parts of the US are along the border - because few go there. Borders are contested lands at the edge, travelers quickly pass through ports on the way to somewhere else, the result is a long ribbon of undisturbed areas between ports. I was particularly impressed by the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota. Once Fox gets to the Dakotas and Montanna, the entire states are included as part of the Northlands, which stretches the concept thin and challenges the very idea of a contiguous Northland.… (more)



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