The Great Divide


The Continental Divide runs north-south from Alaska to northwestern South America. It separates waters flowing into the Pacific Ocean from those flowing into the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico.

We stopped in New Mexico to document traversing this natural boundary...

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So cool!!! Could you feel the altitude?

The altitude wasn't too bad.

2000 m isn't much. On the way back, you can swing slightly north and take US60 through the White Mountains and across the Plains of St. Augustin -- the NRAO VLA is very much worth the time, and the Plains are a wonderful example of the way distance and light work in the Southwest; that route takes you up a bit higher and you cross the Divide near Pietown.

Much prettier than I10.

We were mainly happy just to find sunshine in February :)

We were mainly happy just to find sunshine in February :)

We're having a special on it this year; 80 F in early February gets old fast. If you can arrange a swap so we get some snow in the mountains, that would be excellent.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 04 Feb 2009 #permalink

That reminds me of when my h & I went to visit the Garden of Eden. No kidding. It's in Nova Scotia (Canada) and not on the main highway. Nova Scotia has a triangle of highway and in between there are logging roads. It took us a long time to get to the Garden of Eden, which turned out to be a logged out mostly abandoned spot with an old cemetery. But I have a similar picture standing next to a sign. I have to find the photo (pre-digital cams) and scan it.

That shirt... umm... wow. *chortle*

It separates waters flowing into the Pacific Ocean from those flowing into the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico

... or the Arctic, or Hudson Bay.

A really cool place is Triple Divide Peak in Glacier N.P, which divides three ways between waters headed to the Gulf, the Pacific, and Hudson Bay.

Actually none of the water 'divided' by the Continental Divide goes directly to the Atlantic--it all gets there via the Gulf of Mexico or the Hudson Bay.

Wow, the USGS is really simplifying on that page. But to me once you say "The Atlantic or the Gulf" you're really opening up a can of worms. I took a deeper look at this issue and found this article (PDF) which points out that there's no very good way to define a Continental Divide. Arguably there are four in North America. But it's always possible to subdivide into more and more such divides.

The main point was that there's no spot on the traditionally-defined "Continental Divide" where water falling on one side goes directly to the Pacific and on the other side goes directly to the Atlantic. The Appalachians and the St. Lawrence divide stop that from happening.

I just want to say that I LOVE that shirt! Hope you are having a blast.