MADISON COUNTY, Ala. or LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WIAT) – Just follow the dirt road, and you’ll find it. It’s not far down Huckleberry Drive, just east of the Brier Fork Flint River. For a while, you’ll follow the state line. Then, according to Google and Apple Maps, the state line will follow you.
You’ll curve to the left, northward, then back right, to the south. If you stop and look behind you, you’ll see the place in between. This couple of acres of land, shaped by the turn of the road, may be a place without a state.
Alabama’s border with Tennessee was primarily shaped during the colonial era as the territories of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia each shifted. Traditionally, the Alabama-Tennessee border was defined by the 35th parallel, a line of latitude roughly dividing the two states.
But decades of time, turmoil, and costly litigation have blurred the states’ territorial lines. And now, since at least 1985, Alabama has had a “bump on its head.”
That’s what Chris called the border’s deviation in a post on the online forum Reddit.
“How was Alabama bumped on the head?” He asked.
Chris is a software engineer specializing in mapping programs. He said he looks at maps for fun and stumbled on the border bump.
The bump, Chris pointed out, appears on Google Maps, the behemoth of online mapmakers. It also appears on Apple Maps, the default navigation app for iPhones. (Bing Maps does not include the deviation.) It’s possible, Chris speculated, that these companies relied on faulty data when defining state borders on their maps.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Google responded, but chose not to provide comment ahead of publication.
One possible cause of the border shift is Tennessee’s own property tax maps, which fail to include the land, the size of a few football fields, as property within the state. So far, Alabama has not laid claim to the land Tennessee has effectively ceded to its southern neighbor, though. Property tax maps on the Alabama side of the border do not curve into Tennessee to match their stated borders. It’s blurred lines all around.
Luckily, a high-stakes border war is unlikely. The land of both sides of the divide is owned by Scott’s Orchard, a generations-old family business. The only impact, it seems, is a negligible property tax discount and an interesting story.
For a century, Scott’s Orchard has been a steward for the borderland. So if you do take a ride down Huckleberry Drive to see the place in between, stop in for a treat.
“Even though we have an Alabama address, most of our farm is located in Tennessee, since our farm stretches across the Alabama/Tennessee state line,” the business’ website says. “But, don’t let the two-lane, country back road fool you. We offer many varieties of the freshest apples, peaches, plums, watermelons, fresh-pressed cider, slushies, vegetables, honey, and molasses in the south.”
It may be worth slipping in a question, too: “Where exactly are we?”
Monica Nakashima contributed to this story.