A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border

(Summer 2018, W.W. Norton)

by Porter Fox

America’s northern border is the world’s longest international boundary. For the millions who live there, it is simply known as the northland. Travel writer Porter Fox spent two years trekking its length by canoe, freighter and car—coast-to-coast from Lubec, Maine, to Bellingham, Washington. In Northland, he delivers the little-known history of the region and a riveting account of exploring its most remote corners.

Fox opens the book in the country’s easternmost town then follows French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s adventures to the St. Lawrence River. He recounts the rise and fall of the mighty iron, wheat and timber industries while crossing the Great Lakes on a 740-foot freighter, then tracks the path of America’s fur traders from a canoe in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Northland is full of Fox’s vivid descriptions of colorful characters (Explorer René-Robert Cavelier, railroad tycoon James J. Hill, Lakota Sioux Chief Red Cloud and Captain Meriwether Lewis) and some of the most extraordinary landscapes in America (Glacier National Park; Thousand Islands, New York; the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation; Montana’s Medicine Line country and the glaciated peaks of the North Cascades). Throughout, Fox weaves in his encounters with present-day residents, border guards, freighter captains, Indian activists and militia leaders to give a dynamic portrait of the northland today. Amid the threat posed by climate change, water wars, oil speculation, immigration policy and escalated border security since 9-11, Fox maps out how America’s forgotten border may well shape the country’s future.