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.

Reporting booth at Jim's Corner. Upon entering the Northwest Angle by road, the traveler must enter the booth and report to U.S. Customs via videophone. Before leaving the Northwest Angle by road, one must report to Canadian customs from the same booth. (Wikipedia)

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 “However, the United States’ northern border inspection technology has become outdated and dangerous which could discourage future tourists from visiting areas up north.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.