The Remotest Place in the Lower 48

by Dave Schuler on January 29, 2013

According to the United States Geological Survey’s NORM-ED database, the remotest place in the continental United States, the lower 48 states, is in the wilderness of Grand Tetons National Part. The blue dot shows you where it is. You can click on the image for a larger version. By my eyeball-o-meter it’s about 30 miles south of one federal highway and about 30 miles north of another federal highway. There’s an Interstate about 200 miles to the west. That’s the remotest place. To get there you’d take one of the highways, drive a few miles on what are probably gravel roads, and then backpack in. Basically a day trip, made more difficult by the altitude.

By comparison Motuo in China (Tibet) is a whole county completely inaccessible by road. They built a road back in 1993 but it fell into disrepair and is unusable. Any necessary food or medicine is carried in on foot.

Why is the United States infrastructure always being compared with that of China, Russia, or Brazil? Below is a map, prepared by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre as a graphic illustration of interconnectedness.

The lighter the color, the more interconnected. The darker the color, the less connected. As you can see, the eastern part of the United States compares favorably with Europe while the less-interconnected western part is still considerably lighter than vast areas of Russia, China, or Brazil that are contiguous with the main population centers of the country. Comparisons between the highly-developed United States and the BRIC countries is facetious. We don’t spend as much on infrastructure (definition: roads and bridges) as a proportion of GDP as they do because we don’t need to any more.

There are 221 bridges across the Mississippi, roughly one every 10 miles, from Minneapolis where you can jump over the river to its outlet in the Gulf where you can’t even see across it. Bulding one additional bridge won’t add to our productivity or competitiveness in the slightest. I would argue that it would actually decrease our productivity because a superfluous bridge would require maintenance and in the real world where resources are in competition with one another that means those resources wouldn’t be available for another, more efficient use.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Hattip January 29, 2013 at 8:38 am

Why? B4cauase the democrats want to pay off their pals that own construction firms and pay off one of their major constituencies which are the various Unions involved is so-called “public works”, that is why.

It has nothing to do with “national productivity” whatsoever”–as if the Democrats could be concerned with such things.

PD Shaw January 29, 2013 at 8:50 am

I remember watching a British tourism show, where the Brit was standing in the middle of either I-25 in Wyoming or I-15 in Idaho, pointing out that he had been standing here on this big road for over an hour without any traffic. I think he was poking a little fun, while trying to explain the size of the U.S.

PD Shaw January 29, 2013 at 9:52 am

Just for curiosity I searched for the remotest place in Colorado, since I’m planning a trip there in a few months. A different study of “remoteness” found that Hinsdale County, Colorado the remotest, as measured by “roadless volume” per capita. I personally found this interesting because I’ve been on roads in Hinsdale County. Growing up, we stayed with family friends in Creede, CO for almost a week, driving to sights in Durang, Silverton and Mesa Verde. Not so remote to me.

Anyway, the map is very interesting in light of the discussion.

jan January 29, 2013 at 9:56 am

That was a fascinating post, Dave! Loved the infrared-like map visually depicting infrastructure densities, too.


In the northern coastal regions of CA, traffic is similar to that Wyoming/Idaho story you relayed above. In fact, in one town, there is a traffic sign warning people of ‘congestion ahead.’ My husband and I often laugh, because as far as you can see through this town, there often is one to none cars in the distance — such a difference from Southern CA traffic, 480 miles away!

Drew January 29, 2013 at 11:18 am

Super. We have found the spot for the 1st Annual Glittering Eye proprietor and commenter convention and cook-out…….

I will bring the Bordeaux.

Icepick January 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

I would have guessed that the most remote place was in SE Oregon. But when you know of one very remote place, a question like “What is the most remote place in the Lower 48?” will automatically bring it to mind.

I’ve been through chunks of the Mojave, and I wouldn’t have picked that for being a very remote place – there are roads all over the place, even when there’s no place along the road or at the end of it. I suspect that military testing of airplanes, rockets & missiles and atomic weapons has something to do with all the roads.

Andy January 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hmm, interesting choice. It actually says a lot about using databases to calculate “facts.” That area is certainly remote, but it is near the Continental Divide trail in one of the most populated National Parks, so it does see foot traffic. The trailheads off the highways to the north and west are some of the busiest wilderness trailheads in the country. If it weren’t for the fact that backcountry camping permits are regulated and restricted, I suspect there would be a lot more people in that area than there already are. Even so, there are two ranger cabins on the south end of Yellowstone lake which are occupied during the summer (and they have their own interesting history). In terms of places that people actually go (or rather, don’t go), there are probably many more “remote” areas in the lower 48. There is also an interesting geological feature not far to the south of that point.

Steve Verdon January 30, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Yes, but do you get cell reception there?

Mario February 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Thanks for giving it away! Now everyone will go there!

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