Northland: A 4,000 Mile Journey Along America's Forgotten Border


A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border

(Summer 2018, W.W. Norton)

A quest to rediscover America’s other border—the fascinating but little-known northern one.

America’s northern border is the world’s longest international boundary, yet it remains obscure even to Americans. The northern border was America’s primary border for centuries—much of the early history of the United States took place there—and to the tens of millions who live and work near the line, the region even has its own name: the northland.

Travel writer Porter Fox spent three years exploring 4,000 miles of the border between Maine and Washington, traveling by canoe, freighter, car, and foot. In Northland, he blends a deeply reported and beautifully written story of the region’s history with a riveting account of his travels. Setting out from the easternmost point in the mainland United States, Fox follows explorer Samuel de Champlain’s adventures across the Northeast; recounts the rise and fall of the timber, iron, and rail industries; crosses the Great Lakes on a freighter; tracks America’s fur traders through the Boundary Waters; and traces the forty-ninth parallel from Minnesota to the Pacific Ocean.

Fox, who grew up the son of a boat-builder in Maine’s northland, packs his narrative with colorful characters (Captain Meriwether Lewis, railroad tycoon James J. Hill, Chief Red Cloud of the Lakota Sioux) and extraordinary landscapes (Glacier National Park, the Northwest Angle, Washington’s North Cascades). He weaves in his encounters with residents, border guards, Indian activists, and militia leaders to give a dynamic portrait of the northland today, wracked by climate change, water wars, oil booms, and border security.


  • Hardcover
  • Forthcoming July 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24885-2
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 272 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide


“In this rip-roaring adventure story, Porter Fox illuminates every imaginable facet of the northern border: historical, natural, economic, environmental, geopolitical, and, above everything else, the human.” — Neel Mukherjee, author of A State of Freedom

Northland is more than a rollicking, acutely reported, and beautifully written account of an epic journey from Maine to Washington across the arc of this country’s magnificent and half-forgotten boreal perimeter. It is also an illuminating, provocative, and poignant glimpse into what America once was—along with a celebration of what remains of that same America along its obscure, dismissed, and unspeakably lovely northern frontier.” — Kevin Fedarko, author of The Emerald Mile

Northland is a revelation: a gripping east-west journey 3,987 miles along an invisible line. The book is filled with history, irony, adventure, finely drawn characters, and a true sense of place. Fox, a son of the North and a gifted writer, is the perfect guide to this world.” — McKenzie Funk, author of Windfall

“The border between the US and Canada can seem less significant than other boundaries that have shaped America—the southern border with Mexico, the Mason-Dixon line, the frontier—but this wasn’t always so. With a native northlander’s knowledgeable and loving eye, Porter Fox seeks and finds the furtive beauties and forgotten histories of our borderlands to the north.” — Donovan Hohn, author of Moby-Duck

“Porter Fox’s wild trip across the rivers and lakes, prairies and mountains is at turns wondrous, meditative, and scary. In Fox’s patient telling, the northland is less a border than a threshold, a kind of otherworldly membrane wherein people are in conversation with the stream systems and watersheds upon which life depends and that political boundaries work to ignore.” — Robert Sullivan, author of My American Revolution

“A riveting illumination of the northern border’s contentious past, made urgent by the denizens we meet along the pages who are fighting—doggedly, courageously—for the right to course-correct its future.” — Courtney Maum, author of Touch




“DEEP is the must-read story of how global warming is transforming the future of snow and the future of skiing. A powerful call to action for anyone who cares about the future of our planet.” —Former U.S. Vice President and The Climate Reality Project Chairman Al Gore

As featured on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Review, CBS national news, NPR and in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

DEEP is a book about skiers, written and produced by lifelong skiers, with a message that reaches far beyond the slopes we draw inspiration from. It covers a sport that has inspired millions and the mountains and snowfall that make it possible. It is not a tale of the end. It is a beginning – a reminder of how dynamic and fulfilling the skiing life is. And a wake-up call regarding what needs to be done to save it. The narrative follows the unlikely rise of skiing from prehistoric Norwegian hunters to nobility in the Alps in the 1800s to present-day freeriders on the vaunted slopes of the Rocky Mountains. On his global tour of the most celebrated peaks in the Northern Hemisphere, from Washington’s Cascade Range to Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, Fox talks to alpinists about the allure and mysticism of the sport and to scientists about climate change and its effect on snow-ultimately finding a story that is far larger than the impending demise of skiing. For the seven million skiers in America who dedicate their winters to tracking storms and waking up at dawn to catch the first chairlift, the lifestyle change will be radical. It will likely be far worse for the rest of the world. Fox uses primary evidence and interviews, mixed with groundbreaking scientific studies, to explain exactly how and when the Great Melt will play out, the vital importance snow and ice have to Earth’s climate system and the tremendous groundswell that is rising up to fight climate change. DEEP goes on to map a way to mitigate global warming, reduce human impact on our planet and repair the water cycle. As it turns out, the efforts to save snow and ice might end up saving the world.