Calculating Remote

Many people have asked us how we know the location of a state’s Remote Spot. Here is a detailed explanation of our methodology.

By our definition, a state’s Remote Spot is the point that is the farthest straight-line distance from a road or an otherwise isolated human settlement. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we can calculate the exact location within a state that is the farthest distance from a road. Most importantly, this calculation can easily be replicated and repeated in the future to measure changes in remoteness.

To calculate a state’s Remote Spot, we start by obtaining the most recent and detailed GIS road coverage data for each state as well as a state boundary coverage. Many states have very easy-to-use GIS database websites while others we communicate through email or by phone to obtain the data. We have found the quality (i.e. detail and accuracy) of the data varies greatly by state, which leads to some pretty interesting Remote Spots as we will show below.

Using the Euclidean Distance tool in ArcGIS we calculate the farthest distance from a road coverage. We then use satellite imagery to verify the ‘remoteness’ of the point. Often times we have found roads and even developments that were not included in the state’s road data. For example, below are a series of images depicting some of the Remote Spots that were initially calculated for various states.

When a situation like the above occurs, we edit the road file to include the road or infrastructure that we find on the satellite imagery.  Sometimes we have to do several iterations of editing and recalculating to get a final Remote Spot.

We have had many conversations about what we should incorporate and what we should not in terms of remoteness.  In Massachusetts, for example, there is a lighthouse and keeper’s cottage near the Remote Spot that is used a few times a year.  In Kentucky, we have encountered large systems of roads and mountain top removal operations associated with mining – technically private roads not accessible to the public but the roads are frequently traveled by large trucks and machinery.  In Virginia, the original Remote Spot landed near an ORV route permitted by the National Park Service.  Each state seems to have a unique situation, which we are documenting, and will incorporate into our expedition journals now and book in the future.