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Yellowstone National Park Relocates the 45th Parallel


Yellowstone National Park officials have relocated the popular 45th Paralle sign in the name of safety. Photos by rplzzz via flickr.

Geographers might blanch at the thought, but Yellowstone National Park officials have pushed the 45th Parallel a bit north in an effort to make park visitors safer.

In truth, though, and as the accompanying picture illustrates. the relocation of the sign depicting the 45th Parallel as it passes through the park actually brings it closer to the actual latitudinal line.

If you haven't taken one of Dr. Bob Janiskee's geography courses, the 45th parallel is an imaginary line that circles the globe at the point halfway between the equator and the North Pole. This same line passes through Minneapolis-St. Paul; Ottawa, Canada; Venice, Italy; and the northern tip of the Japanese islands. In most of Yellowstone, it is slightly north of the Montana-Wyoming border.

For years, Yellowstone visitors have stopped on the road near the Boiling River parking area between Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs to have their picture taken with the landmark sign. The spot was so popular in the summer that vehicle and pedestrian congestion in the area became a safety issue. It prompted managers to look for an alternate location for the popular “photo op.”

Using GPS technology and keeping safety in mind, the sign has been moved nearly a mile north to a small parking area that will provide not only a much safer, but, as it turns out, also a more geographically accurate location. While placement on the exact site where the 45th crosses the road was not an option, it is now within approximately 1,200 feet of the correct position.

P.S. -- Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the Montana/Wyoming state line does not follow the 45th parallel through the park. The “Entering Montana” and “Entering Wyoming” signs will stay in their current locations near the Boiling River parking area.


The same sign is near Gaylord Michigan (45th parallel)

I smile every time I see that sign near Gaylord while heading north on I-75. Growing up in Bay City, I used to think that Gaylord was way "up north." I was really shocked when I finally realized that, as far as northern treks are concerned, Gaylord is just halfway to the North Pole.

I passed this sign on June 5, 2008 and noticed it had moved from where I had seen it in previous years. I then stopped at the Visitor Center at Mammoth and asked why. The first ranger did not know and I don't even think he knew the sign existed at all. The second ranger sort of knew why the sign had moved.

"Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the Montana/Wyoming state line does not follow the 45th parallel through the park."
I think this is a poor statement.

The Wyoming State Constitution defines the northern boundary of the state as the 45th parallel. So the above statement is some what misleading, as it is easy to think that the Montana/Wyoming state line is the 45th parallel (it is after all defined that way). That said however monuments rule so we live with past mistakes of placement and thus the state line is not truly on the state line.

It is a fun bit of trivia.

wow thats WEIRD. Just watching a show on TV about Nostradamus and he has a prophecy written saying "...and at 45degrees the sky will burn!" FREAKY!!! They (on the show) were trying to link it to the 911 incident. But I think the sky would burn MUCH more if Yellowstone erupted (hence the 45th parallel) which means 45degrees exact

If you want something really weird, contemplate the fact that the Northern Hemisphere 45th parallel most emphatically does NOT mark the halfway point to the North Pole! The actual halfway point is about ten miles north of the 45th parallel. That's because Earth is not a perfect sphere. Due to its rotation about its axis, Earth bulges a bit and is actually an oblate spheroid. If you wanted to be perfectly honest with your highway signs, you'd have one that announces the 45th parallel, then you'd have another, about ten miles due north, that announces the halfway point to the pole. The likelihood that we'll ever get this truth-in-signage? Exactly zero, I should think.

My brother & I spent a week in Yellowstone camping last August 2008. We took our picture at the said sign, but have also seen the 45th sign on our way north on I75 headed to Petoskey where our sister lives. Our family lived and grew up in Clarkston MI, our parents have lived in the same house for 58 yrs. We used to have a cabin 7 miles east of Grayling on M=72.

Please see the book Wyoming-Montana Border, They Followed the 45th, 1879-1880, for a detailed explanation of the northern Wyoming boundary through the park. The book relates the original survey and documents the border which became the legal boundary of Wyoming-Montana even though the surveyors were off from the 45th Parallel many times.

If they can't get it right, why bother putting up signs at all? If they were to figure out all the state lines they would probably be off a lot more then they think they are just like the 4 corners, move the marker or don't have it there at all!

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