Have you ever walked across the ridgeline of the roof of your house?
In Yellowstone you can traverse the ridgeline of the North American continent.
If you look closely at the park map you received at the entrance, you can trace the Continental Divide’s 115 mile route across Yellowstone. The Continental Divide—or Great Divide—indicates where the rivers change direction.
Basically the Continental Divide is like the rooftop of the continent. Like on your roof at home, rain that falls on one side will run off and into the front yard while rain that falls on the other side will flow into the backyard.
The Continental Divide runs along mountain ridgelines—though not always the highest mountains—and divides the continent’s watersheds. In Yellowstone, rain and snow that fall north of the divide will flow into streams and rivers to the Atlantic Ocean and the precipitation that falls south of the Divide will flow to the Pacific Ocean. Amazingly, Yellowstone is even home to some ponds or streams that straddle the Continental Divide and can flow to either ocean.
As you journey to Yellowstone and back home again, you will undoubtedly cross rivers and creeks and perhaps even the Continental Divide in locations outside of the park. You may also encounter rain or snow on your trek.
Next time you find yourself out in the rain or snow, take time to think about where all that water is headed and how it nourishes the landscape on its way to the ocean.
By all means, stop and take your picture by the sign with one foot in the Atlantic watershed and the other in the Pacific watershed.