Sucker Bets 101: Illinois lies east of the Mississippi


There even more such instances along the Arkansas/Louisiana/Mississippi border (oxbow lakes galore representing where the river formerly delineated the state boundaries). I wonder if the states in question will ever redraw the state lines which have been changed in this fashion?

There is a similar bet that is often made in the Detroit-Windsor Ont. area. Which is one of the very few spots that Canada is on the South side of the border.

Pardon me for splitting hairs, but this is infuriating. I realize the column is 33 years old, but Kaskaskia township, as cited in the column, is actually about 70 miles northeast of St Louis (and “inland” from the river). The village of Kaskaskia - known by the US Census Bureau as Kaskaskia Precinct, and notably, the first capital of Illinois - is situated west of the Mississippi river in Randolph county.

“What’s a word or two off?” you ask, “It’s all relative.” I guess Columbus thought the same thing when he discovered the West Indies.

I just discovered last week (by driving through it) that there’s a sliver of Kentucky which lies north of the Ohio River. …Just south of Evansville, Indiana.

The question: How many states does Rhode Island border?

The standard answer: CT and MA

The REAL Answer; CT, MA and NY

Why New York? Watch Hill, Rhode Island is less that 2 miles (by water) from Fishers Island, NY.

That’s not really surprising, given that the northern boundary of Kentucky (and the northwestern boundary of West Virginia) is on the northern shore of the Ohio River, as it was when originally surveyed. So, if that northern shore has moved south over the last 200 years, part of Kentucky (or WV) is on that side of the river.

I suspect that the reason why the boundary is there, rather than on the centre line of the Ohio River as you’d expect, is that Virginia (out of which Kentucky and West Virginia were sliced) got to make its claim before the North Western Territory was formed.

Yes, that’s true. When horse race gambling was completely illegal in Indiana, Ellis Park, in that sliver, was a place where Hoosiers could play the ponies without crossing the Ohio River. Indiana now allows horse race betting in a few places. I don’t know if the horses still run at Ellis Park. It’s still a long way from Ellis Park to the nearest Indiana horse track.

When I was going to school in Evansville ('67-'69,) my girlfriend and I would park my old Corvair on a county road down there. We’d drink bourbon and make out. Sheriff’s cars from Kentucky and Indiana cruised past us, perhaps wondering which state we were in.

Does it count as a border if it is across water? If it’s a river then I’d say yes, but not otherwise.

I mean, does England border France? Surely not.

I don’t remember how I know this, but river borders are complicated when you take into account that the river might change its path. If I recall correctly, if the channel of the river merely moves more or less slightly, getting wider or narrower, or maybe staying the same width but moving more or less directly to the right or left, the border changes to stay at the middle of the river. Or at least it “should.” (I believe this is why there was a transfer of land between the United States and Mexico along the Rio Grande during the 1970s. If I’m not mistaken, they then paved the riverbed to keep this sort of thing from happening again.) If, on the other hand, the river fundamentally changes course, like with an oxbow, then the border stays as it was before the change. This is what happened with Kaskaskia. (Also, if I had to guess, the reason there are so many oxbows in Mississippi near Arkansas is that the New Madrid earthquake significantly changed the course of the river.)

Sorry that I have nothing to cite at the moment, but I’m pretty sure this is how it works.

No, the big muddy meanders a lot because it’s flatter than a plate of piss there and there isn’t much discernible “downhill”. New Madrid earthquakes have caused it to change course, but it does it more on its own.

A few thousad years of erosion will do that, no earthquake needed. New Madrid itself will be on an oxbow eventually.

In fact, while we’re on the topic of sucker bets, the Mississippi River can be said to flow uphill: Due to the oblateness of the Earth, the mouth of the river is actually further from the center of the Earth than is the head.

'Course, oxbow lakes that are along a state line likely were caused by the quake.

Thanks for the info.

By the same logic, Indiana is south of Kentucky. But I wouldn’t pay up on a bet like that (not that I make bets, in bars or otherwise).

The usual rule is that where a river serves as the boundary between two jurisdictions the main navigation channel (or “thalweg,” a term from, I believe, Old German), is the dividing line. That’s usually a sensible rule, since water levels may go up and down, but the deepest channel will always have water, assuming it hasn’t dried up completely, and so it is shared by both sides. Imagine the confusion if, say, the boundary line were defined as equidistant from both banks. As the water level changes, the line would change. See

But as Wheelz points out, the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky is different, and as Giles notes, it has to do with Virginia’s original hugely-expansive land claim, encompassing what are now several states that were later carved out of it:

The Supreme Court had to deal with this in 1890 (see, considering the question of Green River Island in the Ohio River. Necessarily, I am over-simplifying a bit, but here’s the deal: While once separated from the Indiana shore, over time the channel between the island and Indiana substantially dried up. The language in Virginia’s 1784 cession of its claims to what became Indiana, Illinois, etc., described it as a cession of land “situate, lying, and being to the northwest of the River Ohio,” and so Indiana started at the shoreline (the low water mark). Therefore when Kentucky was later carved out of Virginia it succeeded to the entire river, including the island, which remained part of Kentucky even when it was later “attached” to Indiana.

I stumbled across this case some years ago and while it had no relevancy for me I immediately went down the hall to my colleague who was from southern Indiana (we’re in New York), figuring I could impress him with a useless (so I had thought) factoid about his home state. He surprised me by explaining that everyone back home knew that. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would know or care about such an obscure rule, but he explained that at the time the legal drinking age was 21 in Indiana but only 18 in Kentucky. So, young Hoosiers would regularly take advantage by various means, from drinking in boats to standing knee-deep in the water with a six-pack, thumbing their noses to the Indiana constabulary. And better still, there were bars built on piers attached to the Indiana shore, licensed by Kentucky (and so, I suspect, disinclined to be overly strict about even the 18 year old limit). True practical knowledge.

Igor70, I googled “Stack Island” to see the map in question. Amusingly, google lists it as “Stack Island, Arkansas”.

I believe you are still in a “state” 3 miles away from the coast line. With that in mind, Fishers Island BELONGS to the State of New York, which is seperated by water (as it is an island) from the rest of New York.

Hell, LONG ISLAND is part of the State of New York, even though it’s an island at sea. :smack: