Strange Maps: Canada extends as far south as California

March 4, 2009

A long time ago, I heard a joke:

What do you call someone who knows three languages?


What do you call someone who knows two languages?


What do you call someone who knows one language?

An American.

The punchline holds true when it comes to geography.  Most Americans think of Canada as cold, remote, barren.  California?  Ah, southern, verdant, sunny, palm trees …

Most Americans would be amazed to learn that Canada actually extends further south than the northern border of California!

Pelee Island, Ontario is the largest island in Lake Erie.  Although its location is close to chilly Detroit, the lake effect gives it a milder climate than nearby mainland cities.  Its climate is similar to North / South Carolina, and wine is actually grown there.  It lies south of Latitude 42° N, which serves as the northern border of California.  (Incidentally, the 42nd also serves as most of the northern border of Pennsylvania.)

Middle Island, Ontario is actually further south in Lake Erie than Pelee Island and is officially the southernmost point of Canada.  No permanent settlements are present, however, since it is a conservation area.

“Wait a minute,” you may be saying.  “These are islands.  So does that mean the Canadian mainland doesn’t extend as far south as California?”  Hold your Canadian Mounties horses, willya?

Point Pelee, Ontario and the hamlet of Colchester, Ontario are both on the Canadian mainland.  Both also lie south of Latitude 42° N.

Consider this part of the education of us Americans so that we will no longer be the punchline of (as many) jokes.  I actually didn’t know this until Guy commented on this.  Thanks, Guy.


17 Responses to “Strange Maps: Canada extends as far south as California”

  1. WAD Says:

    Interesting post. Few times with my family, we camped at Point Pelee National Park during Mother Day’s weekend to do some bird watching. I did not realize it’s more south than part of California. It’ll be a good question for trivia game.

  2. Richard Says:

    I wound up in your blog twice while looking for strange borders and looking for cellphones. You really do talk about everything!

    I have always been intrigued by enclaves and exclaves. The last one I went to was Netherlands inside Belgium… Baarle Hertzog something.

    Keep up the great blog!

  3. proudgeek Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Richard! WAD, I’m sure it’s a beautiful place to camp.

  4. mike Says:

    Cool post, surprising fact for Canadians too (at least me).

  5. Paul Says:

    Yup I live along that north coast of Lake Erie, we can see the island from here in Kingsville. It’s a fantastic place to live and the best part is calling my relatives in Edmonton throughout the winter to brag about our warm weather.
    But we still have some cold days and a fair amount of snow, however it usually thaws between each snow fall.

  6. Felix Scharnberg Says:

    This guy is totally into weird map situations too. Did you know there are several valleys in the Alps that belong to one country but because of their ease of transport to the neighbour country, they either use their currency or postage stamps? Think of those very tiny nations as well in Europe that use a currency of a nearby Country.

  7. Felix Scharnberg Says:

    Apparently the border between the US and Canada “along” the 49th parallel has a few surveying errors and can deviate north or south by at least few hundred feet in some places!

  8. nanons Says:

    yeah, and you can actually drive north from canada and hit detroit. only place in canada where you can go north and be in the us (excluding alaska). gotta love windsor.

    • Homer Says:

      Windsor is probably the only reasonably sized Canadian city/town that lies south of a major American city next to it, but it’s definitely not the only place you can walk/drive/sail north from Canada and land up in the U.S. outside Alaska. There are plenty of places along the Maine border where you can walk due north from New Brunswick and end up in Maine, and there are islands in British Columbia near Victoria where you can sail due north and end up in Washington state (Point Roberts). The border between northern Ontario and Minnesota is also quite zigzaggy, and there are places along it where Canada lies due south of the U.S. If sailing across the Niagara river is allowed, then Fort Erie in Ontario lies due south of Grand Island in New York state across the Niagara River.

  9. Kav Says:

    Apparently, about the only thing Canadians are good at is making fun of how little Americans know about the rest of the world and how we stereotype everything and everyone outside of ourselves. The weather in Northern California right now, near the border of Oregon, is about 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Did you write this based on the assumption that the entire state of California has 75-85 degree and sunny weather all-year-round? Because if you worldly, cosmopolitan Canadians knew anything even about San Francisco, one of the most famous cities in the world, you’d know that the weather there is far from tropical, and this time of year it hovers in the low-60s. (Oh, and that’s over 300 miles SOUTH of the northern border of sunny, tropical California state!)

  10. Diana in Shanghai Says:

    I’ve heard the same joke but it was told about British (since I’m an American and fluent in a non-Western language, conversant in 2 others, I laughed hard). But good way to segue into the relevant bit. And fascinating on the obscure islands. Which reminds me of my vow to visit different Great Lakes islands every time I get back to the mid-west. THanks for reminding me!

    • Steve Says:

      I was going to say the same thing about hearing the joke with ‘A Brit’ as the punchline. I’m British, btw, and it’s embarrassing not only how many Brits can speak a foreign language, but how many can barely get by in proper English.

  11. […] Strange Maps: Canada extends as far south as California В« Proud Geek Mar 4, 2009 … Most Americans think of Canada as cold, remote, barren. California? Ah, southern , verdant, sunny, … […]

  12. Homer Says:

    Not only is the southernmost point in Canada further south than the northern border of California, but it is further south than at least a part of 27 U.S. states (a majority!), and is further south than the entirety of 13 U.S. states.

    This person at does a great job of delineating this.

    Many regions in Canada other than Point Pelee have microclimates warm enough to sustain a wine industry, although the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario and the Okanagan valley in BC account for most Canadian wine production

  13. poster Says:

    They “grow” wine there? That would be interesting

  14. […] Slightly off topic, but here is a bar bet you might
    win. A small piece of Ontario (the province) lies to the south of
    the northern border of California. It does so. […]

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