The Continental Divide is one of the most incredible geographic features in the United States and the world. Wyoming is among the states lucky enough to have this incredible natural spine. So is a trip to the Continental Divide in Wyoming worth the time when visiting the Cowboy State? Read on to find out!
What Is the Continental Divide?
The Continental Divide of the Americas is the most prominent of America’s “hydrological divides” separating river systems. In other words, this natural boundary means water flowing on one side will eventually travel toward one body of water. The water flowing on the other goes to a different ocean.
In this case, rivers on the west of the Continental Divide flow to the Pacific Ocean. Water on the east side travels to the Atlantic Ocean. This results from the high-altitude, mountainous terrain around the Divide. Water will naturally flow toward lower altitudes and, eventually, sea level.
America has many other smaller drainage basin divides. Additionally, every continent except Antarctica has these natural boundaries. Rivers and snow melt will flow into different oceans around these ridges.
Where Does the Continental Divide Start and End?
The Continental Divide in Wyoming is just a small part of this ultra-long geologic feature. It stretches thousands of miles from nearly one pole to the other. In the north, it begins along the Bering Strait in Alaska. From here, it heads southeast, crossing into Canada’s Yukon and British Columbia provinces.
It reenters the United States in northwestern Montana, traveling along the Idaho border before crossing into Wyoming. From Wyoming, the Continental Divide heads almost due south through Colorado and New Mexico before reaching Mexico.
It then continues southeast through Mexico and Central America. The final segment of the Divide travels along South America’s west coast, finally ending in Chile’s Straits of Magellan.
Traveler’s Tip: After hiking along the Continental Divide in Wyoming, enjoy some rest and relaxation time in these Amazing Wyoming Hot Springs You Can’t Miss.
Where Does the Continental Divide Cross Wyoming?
Oddly enough, there are multiple answers to this question. Starting in the north, the Divide enters Wyoming from Montana and Idaho in the state’s northwestern corner. This area is most famous as the location of Yellowstone National Park.
It continues southeast but splits near an area known as the Great Divide Basin. A quirk of the state’s geology created this interior basin that was once a massive ancient lake. Therefore, those passing east or west across the south-central part of Wyoming will cross the Continental Divide twice, on each side of this basin.
How High Is the Continental Divide in Wyoming?
The exact elevation of the Continental Divide in Wyoming will vary depending on where it’s measured. Near where it enters the state in Yellowstone, it reaches between 7,988 feet and 8,391 feet above sea level.
At various points along Interstate 80, the road crosses the Continental Divide at 6,930 and 7,000 feet above sea level. These are all quite high relative to most parts of the country. However, they still pale in comparison to the highest points along the Continental Divide, which top 14,000 feet in Colorado.
Does the Continental Divide Run Through Yellowstone?
One of the many amazing features of Yellowstone National Park is the presence of the Continental Divide, which crosses through the park. You can also experience it at several different locations. It enters the park on the west, straddling the Idaho and Montana border.
It then proceeds southeast through the park and is accessible from portions of Yellowstone’s South Loop. These include Isa Lake, which sits along the divide at Craig Pass. It also crosses park roads at several locations, offering photo and hiking opportunities.
How Long Is the Continental Divide Trail in Wyoming?
One of the world’s most challenging long-distance trails, the Continental Divide Trail follows the boundary for approximately 3,100 miles. It goes from Canada to Mexico, weaving through five U.S. states. Wyoming is among them.
It’s home to nearly 550 miles of the trail, which showcases the Cowboy State’s many diverse landscapes. More than 120 miles of this route cross through dry, rugged terrain in the high desert of the Continental Divide Basin. Other portions see snow well into June and July. Hikers have also reported intense battles with mosquitos during the peak of summer.
Still, hikers enjoy some of the most breathtaking landscapes along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. Along with Yellowstone, hikers get unrivaled access to the Bridger and Teton Wilderness areas and the famous Wind River range. It exits into Colorado through Medicine Bow National Forest.
Traveler’s Tip: While hiking along the Continental Divide in Wyoming, make sure to Visit These Quaint Small Towns in Wyoming.
Is the Continental Divide in Wyoming Worth Viewing?
The Continental Divide is one of America’s most unique natural features, one that provides unparalleled scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities. While it extends through several states, few can match the incredible beauty of the Continental Divide in Wyoming.
For those visiting the Cowboy State, a trip to experience the Divide is worth the time for lovers of scenery and the outdoors. You can visit during your trip to Yellowstone or many other spots in this great state.
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