What Is the Continental Divide?

Planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park? The Great Divide is a feature you’ll undoubtedly see on many Yellowstone National Park tours. It crosses through the park, creating the stunning scenery for which the area is so well known. Read on to get to know more about this unique and beautiful natural feature.

Continental divides in terms of geography and purpose

Continental divides exist throughout the world—they’re found on every continent. In most basic terms, these natural features separate a continent’s river systems, allowing water to flow into oceans, bays or seas. They’re sometimes called drainage divides, since they separate drainage basins or watersheds, and they occur in raised terrain, including large hills and mountain ranges.

Precipitation that falls on one side of the divide will travel to one drainage basin, while precipitation that falls on the other side will travel to another. Continents can have more than one continental divide. North America, for example, is bordered by more than two bodies of water and features more than one divide, with most scientists claiming that between three and five divides exist within the continent.

Since scientists disagree on the precise borders between ocean basins, the number of true divides in the continent continues to be a topic of scientific debate, but the most well-known divide is the Great Divide.

North America’s Great Divide

While there is no single continental divide that’s unique to North America, the Great Divide, also known as the Continental Divide of the Americas, runs from northwestern Alaska to the southern tip of South America. The Great Divide is distinguished by high elevations along much of its course, and the divide in America includes the Rocky Mountains, which send water eastward to the Gulf of Mexico and westward to the Pacific Ocean.

The Great Divide is characterized by spectacular scenery along its entire length, particularly where it crosses into Wyoming within Yellowstone National Park. While the entire length of the Continental Divide Trail extends over 3,100 miles, visitors to the area often pick up the trail in certain spots to make the most of their visit.

Many of the best Yellowstone National Park tours include a trek along the Great Divide Lookout Trail. Visitors have a chance to walk along the divide at a height of 8,700 feet and enjoy gorgeous views of Shoshone Lake and Mount Sheridan.

The Continental Divide Trail takes visitors through Yellowstone National Park, but most people go off the trail to explore the many other interesting areas of the park. By going off the trail, visitors can explore geysers, waterfalls, mountains and the unique wildlife within the park.

If you’re planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park, make the most of your trip and see world-class natural features and wildlife within the park by taking a Yellowstone National Park tour. Get in touch with Yellowstone Tour Guides today to learn more about the best trips and trails to take to make sure you see everything you want to see during your visit.