Border crossing woes may trip tourists, resorts in MN’s Northwest Angle

A new crackdown on border crossings is making it tough to be a tourist to Minnesota’s Northwest Angle, the spit of land separated from the rest of the country by Lake of the Woods.

Basically, when traveling by land, to enter Minnesota from Minnesota, you have to go through Canada and back.

So you stop at one of these babies.

The Grand Forks Herald says U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a warning to a local resort, saying the resort would be fined $5,000 if any of its guests returned to the U.S. from Canadian waters without checking in at an OARS — Outlying Area Reporting Area — site.

“We want to encourage travelers to visit northern Minnesota where tourism plays a significant role in the local economy,” Minnesota U.S. House Rep. Collin Peterson said in a news release.

He and the state’s senior congressional delegation is pressuring the feds to update the technology. “However, the United States’ northern border inspection technology has become outdated and dangerous which could discourage future tourists from visiting areas up north. The United States should be able to implement border inspection technology that identifies travelers efficiently while supporting the economy in the northern region.”

The head of tourism in the area said the problem is particularly critical in the winter. People who are fishing have to travel 16 miles out of the way to reach the phone booth.

“You put tourists in that cold when it’s getting dark over that stretch of ice over and over again, mark my words, something bad is going to happen,” Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, tells the Herald. “It’s a very extreme environment up there.”

“There’s enough hoops to get up to the Angle the way it is,” he said. “We don’t need any more obstacles. It’s kind of like, do the right thing and let’s be realistic. That’s all we’re looking for is an opportunity to move this along so we can find a way that everybody wins.”

People entering by way of the Lake of the Woods can just call a toll-free number on a smart phone. But people driving have to enter Manitoba from Minnesota near Roseau and Warroad, then report a second time when re-entering U.S. territory on the Northwest Angle.

Customs already offers the NEXUS program for people who come-and-go regularly, but it’s not practical for tourists who might only visit once or twice a year.

  • Mike Worcester

    Maybe the Angle needs to threaten to secede again?

    As an aside, and perhaps a loaded question, is CBP running on its own,
    with no direction from above? It’s like they feel they can do what ever
    they want without fear of repercussion.

    • MikeB

      When the disastrous travel ban was announced there were stories that agents on the ground had the power to decide for themselves how to implement processes, that there was a lack of guidance offered, which amplified the chaos. I think your point is spot on.

      Security theater is costing us tourism dollars. among the incalculable human costs

    • ET

      Being a Cub Scout leader and living in Baudette, we had a great opportunity to tour the local port of entry for our meeting this week. The kids thought it was great, because they got to be shackled and checked for radioactive material. The adults thought it was interesting that they don’t really need probable cause to detain someone. The fact that a person is crossing the border is probable cause.
      Joe Henry makes a good point in the Herald article. It’s a burden to have to check in to an OARS station, especially in the dark during the winter, so utilizing existing technology in a better way would make a lot of sense. If you can use a cell phone to check into Canada, you should be able to do the same in the US. 16 miles across the ice doesn’t sound like a long way, but if the wind is blowing you can get lost very easily. All the islands look the same.
      Regarding the Angle, it is worth the trip up there. There’s some really fascinating history about how it came to be part of the US, the fur trade, and the early settlers and the fishing is amazing. If you don’t want to go through Canada, you can go across the lake through one of the local resorts. It’s a 40 mile trip, one way, but it’s a lot of fun.

  • Robert Moffitt

    I have never visited the Angle, but I mean to. Perhaps after retirement.