What is the smallest county in america

What’s the smallest county in the USA? It’s such a easy query however there are numerous methods to method it. It actually relies upon. Would it not be the smallest parcel of land that really carries the title “county?” Does it require a definite, purposeful authorities with particular attributes? What about impartial cities that present residents with related companies and which the U.S. Census Bureau calls “county equivalents?” These concerns all result in totally different conclusions. Over the subsequent a number of articles I’ll discover numerous views and focus on main candidates for the Smallest County designation.

A Main Claimant

Cemetery at Kalawao. Photo by Ed Suominen; (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Cemetery at Kalawao

Kalawao County, Hawaii is the smallest administrative unit in the USA explicitly referred to as a county (map). It has a landmass of 13.21 sq. miles. A mere speck. Palms down and indisputably, nothing in the USA referred to as a “county” is smaller than Kalawao.

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Nonetheless it’s debatable whether or not it ought to high quality as a purposeful county attributable to its geography, historical past, governance and future. Kalawao County encompasses the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north shore of Moloka’i. A steep mountainous curtain utterly partitions it off from the rest of the island. No roads result in Kalawao. Guests arriving by land should negotiate a rugged foot path over the mountains. Such a small, remoted, and distant spot appears an uncommon alternative for a standalone county.


It make extra sense within the context of the county’s historical past, for it was right here that the Belgian priest Father Damien supplied a haven for people affected by Hansen’s Illness (then often known as leprosy). The Hawaiian authorities pressured folks bothered with Hansen’s Illness to stay within the colony starting within the 1880’s as a method to suppress the contagion.

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Later it designated this distant spot as a separate county when it established a county construction in 1905, most likely as a method to reinforce its isolation. Advances in medication finally rendered Hansen’s Illness each treatable and non-communicable.

The Kalaupapa quarantine led to 1969 and the underpinning logic behind the existence of Kalawao County lifted with it. Nonetheless lots of the residents had grown accustomed to life of their distant, self-reliant neighborhood. In a humanitarian gesture the state allowed them to stay in Kalawao County for the remainder of their lives however no new resident might be part of them.

There isn’t any doubt that Kalawao is a longtime county beneath the legal guidelines of Hawaii. Even so the state severely restricted its capabilities and it operates fairly otherwise than the opposite 4 counties throughout the state. It locations Kalawao County beneath the “jurisdiction and management” of the Division of Well being. It additionally established a single county officer — a sheriff — appointed by the Division of Well being from amongst the patient-residents.

A Particular Case

The U.S. Census Bureau considers Kalawao to be a county for census functions, and consists of protection for it each on its map and its statistics. The inhabitants can not replenish and it continues to drop because it ages. The Bureau recorded 147 residents in 2000, falling to 90 in 2010. Ultimately it should turn out to be zero.

It’s the solely county in the USA with restricted entry. Guests should receive permission to enter. Individuals can get permits pretty readily by way of officially-sanctioned excursions carried out by approved operators. However folks can’t simply present up and stroll in. Plus, anybody beneath 16 years is completely out of luck. State legislation prohibits their presence completely.

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For all of those uncommon causes and particular circumstances, it’s debatable whether or not Kalawao can truly be thought-about a county in something greater than title solely. The Nationwide Affiliation of Counties doesn’t record Kalawao as a county. Its inhabitants will disappear in one other technology and it’ll seemingly stop to exist as a county even in title. The purpose will turn out to be moot.

Kalawao is the smallest county in the USA at this time. However is it really a county?

Different Posts on this Collection

  • New York County, New York and Bristol County, Rhode Island
  • Unbiased Cities (Falls Church, Virginia)
  • Arlington, Virginia
  • Epilogue: Coincidence of smallest self-governing county and smallest impartial metropolis

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