Monday, June 2, 2008

In the Middle of Nowhere

For a while, this country’s geographic center bounced around the heartland like the ball on an old movie-screen singalong. When Alaska joined the union nearly 50 years ago, the government determined that the center — the theoretical balance point — had moved from outside Lebanon, Kan., to some inaccessible prairie here in Butte County, 439 miles to the northwest. (Fret not, Lebanon has adapted; it now calls itself the “Historical Geographical Center of the 48 States or the Contiguous United States.”)

Then, when Hawaii became a state soon after, the center moved again — just six miles to this spot, about 21 miles north of Belle Fourche, a small city of ranching and agriculture. The center of the nation was now a few dozen yards from what was then Highway 85; local officials gazed into the open pasture and saw visions of camera-wielding tourists, jammed parking lots, a Belle Fourche boom.

(via NY Times)

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