"The geographic center of an area may be defined as that point on which the surface of the area would balance if it were a plane of uniform thickness, or in other words, the center of gravity of the surface..." U.S. Geological Survey, 1931
Pulling into the railroad station at the rustic little town of Rugby, ND, I continued poring over my book, The Earth is Flat. Only on an offhand glance out the window of Amtrak’s Empire Builder did I see this eye-catching claim: “Geographic Center of North America.” Now the city of Rugby had my attention!
I had just seconds to locate my camera in the cramped quarters of our accommodations and take advantage of this rare photo opportunity! And, there would be research ahead to find out about this claim. I wondered why I hadn’t heard of this place before.
Once the train started to crawl out of Rugby, I started thinking about where the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is. Have I passed that spot on my travels at some time without even knowing it? And of course there must be a city in every state whose claim to fame is being the center of the state!
Now that I’m home from this trip I have discovered that Lebanon, KS held claim to being the “center” of the US until 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union. At that point Belle Fourche, SD became a rising star, being the center of the fifty states of the US (just 20 miles away.) In fact, just last year, there was a dedication of a new commemorative monument placed there by NGS (National Geodetic Survey).
One could make quite an adventure out of identifying and finding all these “centers” throughout the country. Let's, see…where is my next train trip?
Happy geocaching & benchmark hunting!
Originally published on July 18, 2008.