When we look at the map of the Earth, one of the first things that we see is that its surface is divided into land and water. The land consists of several continents and millions of islands, and the water is all the oceans and seas. We, humans, live on continents and islands. Do you know which piece of land is the longest, almost from pole to pole? This is America, consisting of two continents- North and South America. Now, let’s make a journey around North America and reach its extreme points!
Let’s open the map of the world. North America is the northern half of the Americas, as mentioned above, the longest piece of land on our planet. Most of it is broad, with a narrow strip accompanied by islands on the east, called Central America. And there is a vast archipelago on the north, where the largest island on the Earth- Greenland is located.
At its far Northwest, North America almost reaches the easternmost tip of Eurasia. There is Alaska, with its “tale” stretching further westward by the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleut Islands. On the east, you can see the large Labrador Peninsula- one of the largest peninsulas on the Earth. And on the south, narrow Central America joins South America through the Isthmus of Panama.
Mainland and islands
Now, let’s define the extreme geographic points of North America and try to reach them. But to do this, we have to define the mainland of the continent only, as well as the whole continent including its shelf and nearby islands.
We see the large Canadian Archipelago on the north-northeast side of North America. It is so closely connected to the continent by its continental shelf, that it is difficult to identify the northern mainland point. But since the islands of the archipelago are all located on the shelf, it is easy to identify the continent’s northernmost island tip, and it is the northernmost land on the whole planet.
The same Canadian Archipelago is the place for the easternmost island point, and it is on Greenland, not far from the northernmost point. But the mainland easternmost tip is in Canada. On the south, the mainland of North America stretches a bit beyond the Panama Canal, and its extreme point there is in Panama. About the islands, there is a Cocos Island, which belongs politically to Costa Rica, but geographically, it is out of the continental shelf.
Finally, on the west, North America and Eurasia share a common continental shelf, and we can easily define its mainland extreme point. However, there is a chain of islands that proceeds further westward, at the same time south of the common continental shelf. On the westernmost of them, we can find the westernmost island point of North America.
The extreme geographic points of North America
Now we have the extreme geographic points of North America- two points (a mainland, and an island) in every direction, even in the south. Although we don’t count Cocos Island, there is another island with almost the same latitude as the mainland point. It is the southern tip of Jicarita Island, and the latitude difference between it and the southernmost mainland tip is only about 10 m (sometimes even shorter during the different tides).
But for all the other extreme points- on the west, north, and east, you have to prepare for cold and polar conditions, because all of them are located too close to the North Pole. This is the shape of North America and its continental islands- reaching its extreme points, there is not much left for a “tropical paradise”.
Anyway, let’s start our journey and see it in detail, starting from the West.
If we look at the map, we can easily notice that the westernmost point of mainland North America is the closest mainland point to Eurasia. And there is the Strait of Bering between them, not wider than around 80 km, with two islands in the middle, which geographically can belong to both continents.
But as I mentioned above, the westernmost island point of North America should be found at the end of the Aleut Archipelago. So, let’s go on a journey to Alaska.
The westernmost point of mainland North America- Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA
You can see it on the map- the curving coast on the eastern side of the Bering and Chukotka Seas. Its westernmost point is Cape Prince of Wales. This point is not so spectacular. There are no high cliffs, no sharp rocks with waves breaking on them, but just a silent beach and barren desolate land behind it, covered by tundra, lakes, swamps, and a large lagoon called Lopp Lagoon.
There is a settlement, called Wales- the westernmost mainland settlement of North America. This is a place with long, cold winter, and a short cool summer. On a clear day, you can see the Little Diomede Island in the distance.
How to reach Cape Prince of Wales
There is a small airport in Wales village. So, the easiest way to reach Cape Prince of Wales is to fly to Wales Airport. But to do it, you have to change three flights. First, you have to fly to Anchorage, then, by another plane, from Anchorage to Nome, and then by the third plane from Nome to Wales.
Once you reach Wales, you can just walk around 3 km on the beach (which is right beside the airport) until you arrive at the westernmost point of the seacoast. There is nothing special there- no geographical monuments, no signs, just a curve of the coast. You can even miss the exact point, so it would be better to look at your GPS. However, not the point itself is something significant, but just the whole nature around- wild, desolate, silent, cold, and remote.
Now, let’s go further west- to the westernmost island point of North America.
The westernmost island point of North America- Cape Northwest of Bering Island
Here I have a little surprise. Politically, Bering Island belongs to Russia. But geographically, this island lies on the North American continental shelf, thus a little bit of Russia is located in North America. This is the westernmost of the Commander Island- a small archipelago located on the same strip of a shelf with the Aleutian Islands.
The island is a harsh and desolate place, covered only by tundra. Its central and southern parts are mountainous, while the northwestern part, where the westernmost point is located, is lower and flatter. The only inhabitants of the island (about 800 people) live in the village of Nikolskoe, as almost half of them are Aleuts. Outside of the village, most of the island is turned into a natural reserve.
How to reach Cape Northwest of Bering Island
The easiest way to reach this point is by plane from Russia. First, you have to arrive at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskyi. From there, you have to take another plane to Nikolskoe. But before you do that, you have to obtain a travel permit for Bering Island (for more information look here).
Once you arrive in Nikolskoe, you can explore the village, its people, and its museum. Then, you can go on an 18 km trekking to the Cape Northwest, through a desolate tundra and rocky coastline. And when you arrive at the cape, you will not see any special sign or mark. But the landscape around is breathtaking, and the cape where the raging waves of the ocean break on its sharp rocks are really spectacular.
Now, let’s cross the continent and reach its easternmost extreme points.
As you can see on the map, North America becomes wider and wider to the north, which means that we have to search for its easternmost point in the continent’s northern areas. And we can find its mainland extreme- it is Cape Saint Charles in Canada. But the islands on the continental shelf spread much beyond it to the east. And we can clearly see that the easternmost island point of North America can be found in Greenland. This is Nordostrundingen, located even beyond the westernmost points of Africa. But let’s start with the mainland.
The Easternmost point of Mainland North America- Cape Saint Charles
Cape Saint Charles is located on Labrador, one of the largest peninsulas on the Earth. In Canada, this area is a part of Newfoundland and Labrador Province. If you zoom on the map, you can see that the coastline there is rugged, cut into deep bays, headlands, and multiple islands around it. One of these headlands is Cape Saint Charles, which needs more precise zooming to identify clearly.
The land on the cape is hilly, with cliffs over the ocean, covered by tundra. There are many small lakes around. In general, this is a very spare populated area, with only a few scattered villages nearby. However, the cape is still a tourist attraction, although not so popular due to its remoteness. At least, it is spectacular, with stunning views around.
How to reach Cape Saint Charles
It is a far and remote place. The best way to reach it is to drive on the Trans-Labrador Highway from Quebec. The whole distance is more than 2000 km, and you have to prepare for a long adventure- at least several days of driving. Your journey will pass through wild, almost uninhabited forest and lake areas until finally, you reach Lodge Bay, the nearest village to the cape. Then, there is a 12 km dirt road to the cape, not proper for every car, but at least easily reachable by hiking.
Another way to reach it is by plane from Quebec to Blanc Sablon, then drive to the cape from there. It can shorten the time, however, I would still recommend the first way- only by driving. It is just because not the cape itself is the only goal, but the whole adventure in this wilderness. Finally, an alternative way could be by local boats and ferries, from wharf to wharf on the coast to Cape Saint Charles (yes, there is a small wharf too), which can be another type of adventure.
Anyway, now let’s head to a much more adventurous place.
The easternmost island point of North America- Nordostrundingen, Greenland
Now we are going to a very remote, wild, and harsh place on the Earth. This is the northeastern part of Greenland. The whole region is called Nordostrundingen, which means (North Foreland). The area around is uninhabited, and the easternmost island point of North America is mostly covered by glaciers. There is a rocky cape, but its shape is unclear.
In winter, the glacier covers the rocky cape and everything remains in the darkness of the polar night. And in the short cold summer, the ice retreats and reveals only barren rocks partly covered by moss. Icebergs from the Greenland glacier fill the icy cold Greenland Sea around Nordostrundingen and the polar wildlife flourishes.
How to reach Nordostrundingen
It is very difficult. The easiest way is to join a polar cruise with route passing by the easternmost island point of North America. It can stop in the area, you can take some photos, but is almost unlikely that you will have the opportunity to land on the coast.
Then, the only other opportunity is to join a polar expedition- a wild and difficult adventure. This expedition can reach the point in two ways. The first way is by local boat or canoe, starting from the nearest settlement or polar station (the nearest trace of civilization around is Station Nord, located on the north coast of Nordostrundingen). And the other way is polar trekking on the Greenland glacier until you reach the point. Needless to say, both ways are only for extreme adventure travelers.
And that’s not all. Let’s look at the extreme North.
The extreme North
As you can see on the map, North America gradually tears to pieces. This is the Canadian Archipelago, part of which is Greenland. For this reason, identifying the northernmost point of the North American mainland is difficult, and requires a high level of zoom on the map. This is Murchison Promontory (called also Zenith Point), the northernmost tip of the Boothia Peninsula.
And the northernmost island point of North America can be easily found on the northernmost tip of Greenland. Well, not exactly, because it is still not exactly on Greenland, but on a small islet just beside the Greenland coast. This is Kaffeklubben Island, and this is the northernmost piece of land on the Earth.
But now, let’s go first to the mainland.
The Northernmost point of Mainland North America- Murchison Promontory (Zenith Point)
As I mentioned, to find this place, you need to zoom deeply at the Boothia Peninsula. The peninsula itself looks no different than the nearby larger islands of the Canadian Archipelago. Many of the islands are separate from each other by an extremely narrow strait which can’t be seen clearly on the map. This is the case with the Boothia Peninsula and the neighboring Somerset Island. You need to zoom down to find the tiny strait between these pieces of land. Only if you find the strait (Bellot Strait, wide from only 400 m to 2 km) you can see the Murchison Promontory on its south bank.
Like the whole area around, Murchison Promontory is a remote and desolate place, covered only by tundra. It is a hilly place with some lakes and swamps. And the landscape is the same on the mainland, and on Somerset Island, no difference. The whole region is almost uninhabited, and the nearest settlement is the village of Taloyoak.
How to reach Murchison Promontory
It is not so easy. But you can still enjoy a nice experience by joining a cruise crossing Bellot Strait. It can stop at the Murchison Promontory, take some great photos of the scenery, and even walk on the rocks of Zenith Point.
All other ways to reach the point are much more difficult and adventurous. Again- just think about an adventurous expedition. The easiest (or the least difficult) way is to fly to Taloyoak. And if you come from the big cities of Canada- Toronto, Vancouver or Quebec, you have to change at least three planes. Then, you have to start trekking on the tundra in summer (here winter is extremely cold), or to travel by boat to the Zenith Point. Again- not just the point is essential, but the whole wild, remote, harsh and desolate area, full of stunning northern beauty.
And now, let’s go further, to the northernmost point of the whole land on Earth.
The Northernmost island point of North America- Kaffeklubben Island, Greenland
This is an important, famous spot- the closest land to the North Pole. Kaffeklubben is a small rocky island, located just north of the coast of Greenland. And its northern tip lies only 700 m closer to the North Pole than Cape Morris Jesup, Greenland’s northernmost point. However, that’s not all.
There are several gravel banks (bars), located even further north. Of them, the most famous one is Oodaaq. But these banks are not considered as the northernmost land on Earth, because they are constantly changing, and often immerse underwater. So, Kaffeklubben Island remains the absolute land record.
Needless to say, this is again a remote, desolate, and cold place with harsh conditions. Far from any civilization, the whole area around is uninhabited. The only human traces nearby are some polar stations, located several hundred kilometers (miles) away. The whole landscape is covered by ice and snow most of the year, and the only time when the land appears out of the ice is the short summer when you can see some moss and even flowering grass.
How to reach Kaffeklubben Island
Again, it is very difficult, but at least, due to its special location, more polar cruises stop nearby. So, this is the easiest way to reach this spot. Some cruises even offer to land on the coast for some great photos. Needless to say, it is a very expensive journey.
And again, the other two ways to reach this spot are by joining a polar expedition. The first way is by boat, in the days when water is free from ice, and the second way is by crossing the polar glaciers of Greenland, or on the ice sheet in winter. Maybe you can do it by joining a helicopter scientific journey if there is such. Of course, only a few people would do this, since such an expedition would require a lot of preparation, experience, and health conditions.
Finally, now it’s time to leave the cold northern spots and to go to a warm place- the southernmost point of North America.
The extreme South
Look at the map again. In the south, North America becomes thinner and thinner, and from Mexico it turns into a narrow strip of land, gradually curving toward southeast-east. Panama is located on one of the continent’s thinnest parts, extending from west to east. And there is a small peninsula (Azuero Peninsula), penetrating deep in the Pacific Ocean to the south. This is the place where you can see the southernmost mainland point of North America. This is Cape Punta Mariato.
There are some islands on the continental shelf nearby, but they can’t surpass Punta Mariato’s latitude. Only one of them, the small island of Jicarita reaches the same latitude, but not beyond it. As I mentioned above, Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean is considered by some people as the southernmost island point of North America, but geographically it is not a part of the continent (only politically) For this reason we skip it, and only Jicarita Island remains.
The southernmost mainland point of North America- Cape Punta Mariato, Panama
The Azuero Peninsula takes a significant part of Panama- a country located on two continents- North and South America. Most of it is an agricultural province. But its southernmost part is different- it is a mountainous place, covered by subequatorial rainforest. Today, this area is turned into Cerro Hoya National Park and is almost uninhabited. So, Cape Punta Mariato is located within this national park.
Cape Punta Mariato is a small rocky promontory, where the swell from the Pacific Ocean breaks its waves into the land. It is covered by forest and some bush, surrounded by small beaches. As the other extreme points of North America, this one is not marked by any sign, but you have to bring your GPS to identify it correctly, as there are other similar looking promontories.
How to reach Cape Punta Mariato
Cape Punta Mariato is a bit difficult to reach because there is no road leading to this point. There are no resorts, monuments, or other tourist attractions. So, the only way to reach it on land is by jungle trekking. It would be an exciting adventure, but of course, not for everybody. There are some wild trails (or traces of trails) through the jungle and the bush that can be used.
But there are some easier ways to reach it. The area is often used by surfers and fishermen, so if you are one of them, you can reach it from the sea. If would be very difficult to land on the sharp rocks of the promontory, but at least you can reach the nearby Tembladera Fishing Lodge on the seacoast. From there you have to walk less than 3 km to the extreme point only, crossing two beaches, two hills, and one river. And although the terrain is difficult, 3 km is not too much.
Now let’s see the southernmost island point of North America- Jicarita Island.
The Southernmost island point of North America- Jicarita Island, Panama
Now we are heading to a fantastic tropical paradise. This is Coiba Archipelago, a group of islands, located south of the mainland coast, and west of Azuero Peninsula. The largest island of the archipelago is Coiba Island, once the home of Coiba people, conquered by the Spanish Conquistadors and turned into slaves. Later it was used as a prison, and somehow it protected its lush rainforest and the whole environment. So, after the prison was closed in 2004, it was turned into a national park.
And if you look at the map, you can see a much smaller island south of Coiba, called Jicaron. But focus south of Jicaron and zoom- you will see a small islet south of it. This is Jicarita, a kilometer long and 100-300 m wide piece of land, completely wild, uninhabited, covered by tropical jungle, as most of the other islands of the archipelago. And the paradise is not only on the land, but also underwater- crystal clear seawater, corals, and rich marine wildlife.
How to reach Jicarita Island
Being a part of Coiba National Park, first, you have to obtain a permit from ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente- National Authority for the Environment). Then, the easiest way to reach the island is from Santa Catalina. The boat ride to Coiba Island is about 1h 30 mins. Once you arrive there, you can book your “base camp”- the ANAM ranger station.
Then, you can enjoy boat rides, diving, and snorkeling around Coiba and the other islands of the archipelago. Optionally, these rides can include Jicaron and Jicarita islands. Jicarita is a rocky piece of land, so it is difficult to land on it. There are no trails on the forest, so reaching its southernmost tip would be an adventurous challenge (but still not impossible). But at least you can take photos of this point and enjoy its beauty from the sea.
That’s all about the extreme endpoints of North America. Now, let’s head to its interior.
The Pole of Inaccessibility of North America- Kyle, South Dakota, USA
The Pole of Inaccessibility of North America is the farthest spot on the continent from any seacoast. On this continent, it is in South Dakota, in the U.S.A. More precisely, on the territory of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, near the towns of Kyle and Allen, a bit “in the middle of nowhere”.
This is a hilly area, covered mainly by prairies. There are some scattered pieces of forest, mainly on the valleys. The area is not deserted, and part of it is turned into agricultural fields. But the Pole of Inaccessibility is difficult to find. There is no monument or other sign on the spot, so you can identify it only by your GPS.
How to reach the North American Pole of Inaccessibility
The most exciting way to reach this spot is by a long driving journey. You can pass through various natural geographical zones, enjoying fantastic landscapes. And the Pole of Inaccessibility can be an exciting part of this journey.
But if you don’t want to drive, you can take a plane to the nearest airport- Chadron Municipal Airport in Nebraska, or from the nearest major airport in South Dakota- Rapid City Regional Airport. Then you can reach the point by only 1-3 hours of driving.
Again, look at your GPS. Once you arrive in Kyle or Allen, drive on Allen Rd (BIA-4). The road is in good condition, and you have to find a place to stop your car somewhere in the middle. Then make a short hike on the hills and creeks covered by grass and some woodland. When you identify the spot, enjoy it.
And to make your journey more meaningful, you can also visit the historical memorials in the area- Wounded Knee Massacre and Burial site, Stronghold Table, and Red Cloud Cemetery- places that will bring you some 150 years ago, during the wars between the Native Americans and the young U.S.A.
This is North America- an exciting continent, full of various kinds of nature and culture. As you can see, although large parts of this continent are quite touristy and well-developed, its extreme points are among the most difficult places to visit, not only on the continent but on the whole Earth. And again, if you want to reach some of these points, focus not only on them but on the whole geographical area where the points are located. It would be a challenging and unforgettable journey, really worth to experience.
Check some books about North America:
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