Turn-around roads at Canadian border crossings

OK - Another question based on the “Border Security” program (about the Canadian CBSA people):

I realize this probably depends on the border crossing; many of the episodes seem to be based on the Vancouver border crossing. When driving up to an international border is there no way to turn around immediately prior to the border when it is painfully obvious that if you proceed you are going to end up talking to the nice border guards?! I would have thought there’d be lots of signs warning you what was coming up.

I ask because there were a couple of episodes mentioning problems people had because they took a “wrong turn” and ended up at the border. How can you accidentally end up at a Canada/US border?!

I ran into this problem last year when I needed to go to the US border office at Sweetgrass Montana. I found myself on a road that I couldn’t get off of and ended up crossing the border into Canada. If there was signage I never saw it.

I didn’t have my US Passport on me so when I turned around and tried to get back into the US they pulled me over and I had to get my wife to scan and fax a copy of my passport.

A total pain, but I guess it was my fault for crossing the border without my passport on me. Oh well.

I have never come to a US/Canadian Border crossing that wasn’t clearly marked long before you got there. IIRC I have crossed at 5 or more different checkpoints and crossed too many times to count.

It might be possible if you lived in a town like Bellingham Washington. You could foreseeably get lost or distracted and end up at the border but I think you really have to not be paying attention.


The two crossings north of Bellingham off of the I5 are pretty well marked.

Interesting. Thanks!

I’ll probably have more questions one of these days - I like that program!

Some of them aren’t well marked, there’s a small sign below an exit sign saying “Last USA exit”. Easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. Not a bunch of flashing bright yellow overhead signs saying “EXIT NOW IF YOU DON"T WANT TO GO TO CANADA!!!”

For people that mark off roads as traveled, it’s an interesting question what it takes to “count” a road that ends at a border. The general consensus it’s it’s preferable to go all the way, but it still counts if you turn around at the last legal place to do so.

Sorry I wasn’t specifically talking about Bellingham, just used it as an example of a town close to the border. I haven’t been there since 08’ when I had a very interesting time getting into Canada and a very bad experience coming back into the US.


Normally when I go to Blaine, I take the two-lane surface street around Drayton Harbor. One day, three years after I moved here, I got on the freeway. I was thinking about something or other, taking a route I usually didn’t, and thought my exit was the one beyond the one that was actually the last one. When I realised my mistake, passing the last exit to Blaine, there was one place to turn around before the Canadian border checkpoint. And it was north of the U.S. border checkpoint. I had to explain to the border guard why I was trying to ‘get into the U.S.’ without a passport or birth certificate. I told her I wasn’t paying attention and inadvertently missed my exit. She said, 'How long have you lived here? :dubious: ’

Well, at Jim’s corner in the Northwest Angle of Minnesota. you have to pull off the road into a parking spot and go into the customs booth to phone in to either US or Canadian customs, depending on which country you are entering.

i suppose you could just pull into the parking area, and then turn around and go back the way you came, without ever crossing the border. It’d be rather pointless, though.

When I was there in 1993 they didn’t even have that, just a sign entering Canada telling you to check in at Sprague if you intended to remain in Canada.

Have you ever been to places like Alburgh or Chateaugay or Trout River or Beecher Falls? These are tiny little border crossings that might only see one or two cars an hour passing through. If you accidentally drove up to one of these crossing stations, you’d just wave to the border guard and turn around in his driveway.

The Coutts (AB)/Sweetgrass (MT) border is lacking in “last exit to Canada/USA” signs both ways. I’ve been across it both ways (and had to go from Lethbridge to Coutts a few times, well-aware that I absolutely must take one of the two Coutts exits), and if you don’t know the area, you can easily get stuck in the border crossing lanes.

I do, however, get a kick out of the distance signs on the Canadian side that tell me the distance to Great Falls, MT in kilometers; and on the US side, that tell me the distance to Lethbridge, AB in miles. Also, the on-ramp sign in Shelby, MT that says “I-15 North – Lethbridge.”

ETA, and aside to Dolphinboy: Your location is Bigfork, MT. I’m in Lethbridge, AB. We should organize a microdope sometime in Waterton NP or Glacier NP.

There are crossings in VT where you can easily end up in Canada without knowing. Two friends ended up seeing a sign “Welcome to Vermont” which concerned them since they thought they’d been in VT the whole time. The road looped into Canada and came back to the States without any border crossing stations. This was pre-9/11 so things might be different up there now.

My stepfather was a professional musician, and traveled with a rather expensive violin. When traveling from, say, New England to Michigan, the shortest route is through Canada. As he didn’t want to be charged import duties on that violin, he always stopped at the US crossing to get documentation that he had the violin with him when he left the US.
You know what most border crossings were not set up for (back in the 70s and 80s, at least)? Somebody who is on the US side wanting to visit the US border post. Even where the crossing was a small road with 2-way traffic, in the border area there would be a median to keep the Canada-bound and US-bound folks separate, so my stepfather frequently had to perform awkward and inappropriate u-turns or drive the wrong way or on the wrong side of the road. The kind of behavior that in less calm times would probably have Border Patrol guys reaching for their guns.

Way back like 35 years ago, we were visiting my aunt in Calexico. My dad turned the wrong way on the freeway and we were so far south, we had to cross the border into Mexicali before we could make a U turn. So I have visited Mexico for 5 minutes on accident.

It ends up up not being to hard, me and my girl just visited niagra for the first time and ended up on the bridge over to the US. Their was no signs the way we came other then get your ID ready lol… There was a small turn around at the start of the bridge but we had no idea at that point that we were headed to the US. We ended up going threw the us boarder after they searched the vehicle and let us into buffalo with only ontario driver licenses. We were told to turn around at the first light and head back to Canada as we did. Little did we know we had to pay a toll just to come back to home sweet home and be questioned by canadian border patrol pretty hard. My girlfriend only had a driver license as if while I had the same but with a birth certificate from ontario so they knew I was legit. After paying the roughly 5$ fee to come back to Canada we were glad the border patrol didn’t see the quarter of weeds in the car. It was a miracle and my girl pooped herself… quite the experience…:slight_smile:

The us border dude had to of smelt the weed and let alone see it blindly in my girl purse… very lucky for the screw up we had.

Recall reading the article about the US border patrol guy in Washington state who had a road rage incident while driving in some town near the border, got royally annoyed at a Canadian and assaulted him. When the Border Patrol wanted to fire him, he argued he was a good agent - his proof was, he’d refused US entry to a lot more Canadians than any other agent.

Someone wanting to drive across Canada will go through Thunder Bay. Drug runners going from east to west often drive straight through the major and well signed intersection where they should have turned right. Sixty kilometers later, they arrive at the well signed border. Some turn around at Canadian customs but get nabbed heading back north (usually speeding is the pretext to initially pull them over). Some turn around after passing Canadian customs but before crossing into the USA, and get nabbed at Canadian customs. Some get nabbed at American customs. Whichever way you cut it, they repeatedly have not paid the slightest attention to where they are going.

Since this one is rising from the grave, I am reminded of a segment from the Comedy Central show This Is Not Happening: Trevor Moore Escapes From Mexico
After a terrible experience in Mexico, he returns to the US only to accidentally wind up on the road back to Mexico.
Very funny, and he describes exactly how he wound up where he really didn’t want to be.

There is a sign, albeit not a huge one, for that last service station exit in Coutts.

I’ve accidentally (legally) entered into the US by accident - I was driving home across Canada with basically all of my wordly possessions packed to the gills in my car and made a wrong turn in Thunder Bay and ended up crossing at Grand Portage. I U-turned around right after the crossing and explained my situation and thankfully they decided I just looked lost and not like a drug smuggler. But as with a lot of these stories, this was pre 9/11 so who knows what the response would be today.