Four Corners in wrong spot?

Is the Four Corners marker, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet, in the wrong location? The answer is “yes” and “no.”


From ABC News/AP:

Tourists who think they’re putting a hand or foot in each of four states at the Four Corners area are apparently missing the mark – by about 2.5 miles. National Geodetic Survey officials say the Four Corners marker showing the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2.5 miles west of where it should be.

The AP story doesn’t really get the story right. The marker is not where it “should be” but it is where the four states come together.

This is all explained at The Map Room: So What If Four Corners Is a Little Off?

When the territorial borders were surveyed in the 1860s, the surveyors were aiming for having the Four Corners intersection at 37°N 100°W. They missed this location, and placed the boundary marker where it stands now. The official state borders are not along the intended lines of latitude and longitude, but where the survey markers were actually placed, so the Four Corners marker really does mark the only place in the United States where four states meet.

On a small scale map of the United States, the straight-line borders of western states look like they follow lines of latitude and longitude exactly. For example, the US-Canadian border is supposed to follow 49°N. In reality, the surveyors missed all of these lines by a bit, and where the surveyors placed their markers is where the legal boundaries really are. Here is a 1:100,000 topographic map showing the wandering of the Montana-Wyoming border in Yellowstone National Park. The boundary wanders up to a half mile from the 45°N line that it is supposed to follow (it gets really close to following 45°N over on the right side of the map).

Grace and Peace

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