Monday, April 20, 2009

Where is the Arizona-New Mexico border?

There's a brief wire service story being reported around the country that the "Four Corners marker showing the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2.5 miles west of where it should be," and not saying much more.

But the real story, full of details and infinitely more fascinating than a simple mistake, was told in American Surveyor magazine last week. The history, written by Fred Roeder, tells how in 1875, "Chandler Robbins, a Deputy Surveyor of the U. S. General Land Office, received a contract to locate and monument Four Corners and to survey and monument the state line to its intersection with the Mexican boundary." The confusion came over whether the western boundary of New Mexico would be at 109 degrees west or 32 degrees west of Washington DC.

Roeder quotes a letter from Robbins published in the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, on November 1, 1875:

“For the benefit of your many readers whom I suppose will be interested therein, I herewith send you a brief description of the most prominent points on or near the boundary line between Arizona and New Mexico. It seems to have been the general impression that the line was the 109° of longitude west of Greenwich. Such is not the case, as the law makes it 32° of longitude west from Washington, which corresponds to 109° 2’ 59”.25 west from Greenwich, and which places the line a small fraction less than three miles farther west than would have been the case if it had been run as the 109° of longitude …”

Now, if this hasn't confused you, read the full article.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:08 AM

    I live in NW New Mexico and am very familiar with the four corners area. After looking at various articles on this story and after checking different places on Google Earth, such as the Arizona/New Mexico border on Interstate 40, the monument appears to be in the right place afterall. Here's the catch: the border of the four states was supposed to be at 37 degrees north latitude and 109 degrees west longitude, but for whatever reason the border--all the way down to Mexico--is a tad bit west of 109 west longitude by about 2.5 miles. Therefore, if we move the monument 2.5 miles to the east,we would also have to move the borders between Arizona and New Mexico, and also Utah and Colorado, over by 2.5 miles. What I'm trying to say is the BORDER is in the wrong place--not the monument. Bottom line: leave the monument right where it is! It's fine and accurate, and those of us who have been there have indeed been in all four states! Unless we for some reason want the border to be exactly at 109 degrees west. Not very practical if you ask me!