Kinda-Sorta Stand at the Center of North America in This North Dakota Town
Each year, thousands of people visit the small town of Rugby, North Dakota, as they make their way across the country. And what a stop it advertises itself to be. According to the town, it sits at the center of North America, offering visitors the novelty of standing in the middle of the continent, going as far as to build a monument and slap the slogan "Geographical Center of North America" on its welcome sign.
Leave it to those pesky scientists to rain on the parade. A few years ago, a report came out that questioned whether Rugby was actually the closest town to the center of the continent. The data revealed that the center was closer to two other towns, about 16 miles southwest of Rugby, 5.2 miles north of Orrin, and 6 miles west of Balta "in the middle of nowhere" and without any sort of marking or monument. This is exactly what the original data showed as well, but Rugby, being the biggest of the three and having an eye for tourism, made the claim to fame its own economical interest.
"Close only counts with horseshoes, hand grenades and the geographical center of something," David Doyle, chief geodetic surveyor with the National Geodetic Survey, told the AP. Doyle said that there was "no method to get a precise location since the continent is always changing," "no generally accepted definition of a geographic center," and "no reliable way of determining it."
Which means the beat and debate go on for Rugby. The town continues to market itself as the center of the continent today, although it does conceded on its website that the center is outside of Balta, a town of only 60 people. Orrin, the town that is closest to the estimation, is practically a ghost town. This means that if you want to stop through the area, a stay in Rugby is your best bet. Just know that when you take a photo beside the monument, you are still 16 miles or so from the so-called center.
[Photo: Glenn Elert]