The Atlas Obscura's US-Canada Border Slash, says:

The Slash was initially deforested for the sole purpose of, according to the IBC, making sure that the “average person… knows they are on the border.” It all started in the 1800s, when the US-Canada border line was set at the 49th parallel. The Slash was cut and over 8,000 original border markers were laid down, most of which are still standing along The Slash to this day. Unfortunately, there was no GPS system at the time, so the border markers were inadvertently placed in a zig-zaggy fashion, straying north or south of the official 49th parallel border by an average of 295 feet. The lack of sufficient cartography also led to irregular border cutoffs such as Point Roberts and the Northwest Angle.

Question: Was there a particular need to "mak(e) sure that the 'average person… knows they are on the border'" that led to the slash, perhaps a dispute due to an ambiguity, or a treaty that required it? Or was this just a common-sense move who's time had come? Where there any particular immediate political or economic benefits to its implementation?

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    I am not referring to the comment, but rather the atlasobscura.com article. Since it claims to cite the International Boundary Commission, who created the Slash in the first place, it seems prima facie believable. Do you perhaps suspect they lying about their motives? Did Atlas Obscura misrepresent them? I believe Including such evidence of research in your question would improve it. I am only offering this suggestions because it seems some of our members have received this question negatively.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 10:55
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    Based on your edit, I suggest your question might be more appropriately titled "Why" did the IBC feel it necessary to create such a clear delineation of the border (Unless your'e still questioning the stated motives for doing so?) I can't give any guarantees as to how the question might be received, but it seems reasonable enough to me; +1 from me.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 11:00
  • Thanks for the help, it's always a bit of a challenge for me learning the best way to compose questions in a new c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶r̶y̶ SE site. Yes I think this is a better way express what it is that I'm interested in understanding.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 12:14
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    Entering a country illegally can lead to some serious judicial problems, so making sure that the average US or Canadian citizen might not find themselves in deep legal trouble upon being caught unwittingly trespassing the border into other state seems entirely logical.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 14:48
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    Probably most applied for hunters or forestry activities where regulations suffered across the border. For most of the last 200 years wandering across the border while in the woods was a much smaller issue than hunting without the proper license or out of season in the ‘other’ country.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 15:24

1 Answer 1


Today's border slash (more commonly known as a border vista) was made in the early 1900's in order to carry out the requirements of the Treaty of 1908 and the Treaty of 1925. These treaties called for an effective and plain demarcation of the border, in order to easily settle any conflicts that may arise from poor surveying or unclear markers.

The Treaty of 1908, which led to the creation of the International Boundary Commission, states the following in Article VI regarding how the border should be marked:

... and boundary marks shall be established wherever necessary, in the judgment of the Commissioners, to meet the requirements of modem conditions and to render more effective the demarcation of the existent boundary established under the Treaty provisions...

And this is expanded by Article IV of the Treaty of 1925, referring to the work done to mark the border since the Treaty of 1908:

And whereas boundary monuments deteriorate and at times are destroyed or damaged; and boundary vistas become closed by the growth of timber; And whereas changing conditions require from time to time that the boundary be marked more precisely and plainly by the establishment of additional monuments or the relocation of existing monuments;

The Contracting Parties, in order to provide for the maintenance of an effective boundary line between the Dominion of Canada and the United States and between the Dominion of Canada and Alaska, as established or to be established, and for the determination of the location of any point thereof, which may become necessary in the settlement of any question that may arise between the two Governments...

A joint report by the American and Canadian boundary commissions in 1925 describes how the above treaty provisions have already been implemented, and how they should be maintained. In particular, the 3 meter/20 foot wide border vista was defined:

VII. That the boundary through timbered areas should be further marked by a vista of sufficient width to give a cleared 20-foot sky line along the boundary

In short, Canada and the US agreed that the border should be clearly marked, probably to prevent the sort of conflicts and disputes that happened in the past due to unclear borders. Having a giant line chopped through a forest certainly meets the treaty requirements of a clear demarcation, and helps stop the common person from accidentally settling in another country.

  • This is an excellent answer, I'll give this a thorough read today. Thank you very much!
    – uhoh
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 23:29

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