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for people who care about the West

Photos: The American town left behind in Canada

Point Roberts, Washington, is cut off from the rest of the U.S. by the Canadian border.


In 1846, the Oregon Treaty drew an international border along the 49th parallel, separating Canada and the United States. In doing so, they isolated Point Roberts, a sliver of the U.S. abandoned on the Canadian side of the border. This little piece of the U.S. hangs off Canada, just south of the 49th parallel and just north of the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound. While the population of the small town bursts with mostly Canadian visitors in the summer, the year-round population is just over 1,000.

Photographer David Ryder first visited the community in July of 2014. He found a laid-back town he says feels like “a well-stocked outpost,” with border guards. It’s a bit of an idyll, surrounded by beaches and full of natural spaces. 

But the isolation also complicates residents’ lives. On July 4, it’s not just American independence that gets fêted: Volunteers raise a Canadian flag alongside the stars and stripes. And, starting in fourth grade, American children have to cross the international border four times and drive 25 miles through Canada, just to go to school in mainland Washington. Other amenities such as healthcare and car registration also require the long trip.