Continental Divide (Atlantic/Pacific)

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The Continental Divide of the Americas, or merely the Continental Divide or Great Divide, is the name given to the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from (1) those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean (including those that drain into the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea), and (2) along the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean.

There are other continental divides on the North American continent, however the Great Divide is by far the most prominent of these because it tends to follow a line of high peaks along the main ranges of both the American and Canadian Rocky Mountains, at a generally much higher elevation than the other divides.

Contents

Geography

The Continental Divide of the Americas begins at Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, the westernmost point on the mainland of the Americas. The Divide crosses northern Alaska into the Yukon, then zig-zags south into British Columbia via the Cassiar Mountains and Omineca Mountains and northern Nechako Plateau to Summit Lake, north of the city of Prince George and just south of the community of Mcleod Lake. From there the Divide traverses the McGregor Plateau to the spine of the Rockies, following the crest of the Canadian Rockies southeast to the 120th meridian west, from there forming the boundary between southern British Columbia and southern Alberta.

The Divide crosses into the United States in northwestern Montana, at the boundary between Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park. In Canada, it forms the western boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park, and in the US bisects Glacier National Park. Further south, the Divide forms the backbone of the Rocky Mountain Front (Front Range) in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, heads south towards Helena and Butte, then west through the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness to the Bitterroot Range, where it forms the eastern third of the state boundary between Idaho and Montana. The Divide crosses into Wyoming within Yellowstone National Park and continues south-southeast into Colorado, then western New Mexico. Note that, although the Divide represents the height of land between watersheds, it does not always follow the highest ranges/peaks within each state or province.

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