the 45th Parallel

Poniatowski, Wisconsin

45x90 Park

The 45th Parallel north intersects the 90th West Meridian a little northwest of the tiny unincorporated town of Poniatowski (which is part of the town Rietbrock, population 981). This point is exactly a quarter of the way around the earth from the Greenwich Meridian and roughly halfway between the Equator and North Pole, though the precise halfway point is about 10 miles north of here, due to the irregular shape of the earth. The park is about a half mile northwest of Poniatowski along Meridian Road.

Meridian Road

Local tavern keeper John Gesicki spent seven years of his spare time pinpointing the precise location of the 45° x 90° intersection in the 1960s. His enthusiasm convinced the farmer who owned the spot to sell him a tiny 0.14 acre plot for $1 to make a county park. Gesicki filled in the swampy land and erected a wooden "Geological Marker" sign in October 1969.

45x90 Sign

In 1975 the U.S. Geological Survey installed a benchmark at the site, vindicating Gesicki's one-man quest by being only 14" off from his calculations. When I visited in 2004, the park was a minimalist destination, without a picnic bench or other amenity, appealing only to geographic pilgrims and curious tourists who wished to pause and contemplate the intersection of these imaginary lines. The large sign in the empty park seemed to function as a sort of backdrop altar screen for the benchmark, like some mysterious navel or omphalos of the living earth.

45x90 Benchmark

45x90 Sign


This spot in Section 14, in the Town of Rietbrock, Marathon County is the exact center of the northern half of the Western Hemisphere. It is here that the 90th meridian of longitude bisects the 45th parallel of latitude, meaning it is exactly halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, and is a quarter of the way around the earth from Greenwich, England.


Now that GPS receivers are as common as smart phones many tourists have noted that the location of the marker is incorrect, at least according to the WGS84 geodetic datum used by GPS receivers. The correct location of the intersection 45° and 90° is about a thousand feet farther to the east. Recently the county secured a new easement from the current landowner to build a walking path along the edge of the field in the photos above. In 2017 a narrow extension of the tiny park was completed, called the "skinniest" park in the state, allowing visitors to hike a quarter-mile nature path (lined with park benches!) to a new stone marker and updated geological marker sign.

John Gesicki noted in several interviews that his quest to locate the 45x90 intersection proved his feelings that there was "something special" about this area at the temperate center between earthly extremes. He encouraged 45th Parallel pilgrims to stop by the bar in Poniatowski where they could sign the 45x90 Club register. The log book listed membership in the thousands before Gesicki passed away in 1995. On our visit in 2004, the bar still had a sign out front but was no longer open.

Gesickis Bar

Gesicki's old 45x90 Club register is now located at the the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Visitors Center in downtown Wausau. 45th Parallel tourists can still add their names to join the club and receive a commemorative coin souvenir.

View 45th Parallel Markers in Google Maps