Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wilson. Wilson Wonders, “What is the continental divide?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wilson!

Here in Wonderopolis, we learn a lot about geography. We know where to find the Bermuda Triangle. We know all about fjords. We’ve even learned how mountains form. But there’s one topic we haven’t studied yet. Today’s Wonder of the Day is very important in geography. It’s the continental divide!

What is a continental divide? Think of it as an invisible line. On either side of the line, rivers and streams move in different directions. They empty into separate larger bodies of water. They might flow north, south, east, or west into larger rivers, basins, bays, or seas. 

Do all continents have a continental divide? Almost. Antarctica is the only major land mass without one. All others have at least one divide. And some have more than one! North America has between three and five. Experts disagree on the exact number.

In Africa, the Congo-Nile Divide is the main divide. To its west, streams flow into the Congo River and the Atlantic Ocean. East of the line, they head for the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea. In Europe, the European Watershed is a triple divide. That means the water flows in three different directions. It heads to the North Sea, Black Sea, or Mediterranean Sea. Australia’s Great Dividing Range separates water moving to the Pacific and Southern Oceans.

You may have learned about the world’s longest continental divide in school. It’s called the Continental Divide of the Americas. Some call it the Great Divide. It starts in Alaska and ends on the southern tip of South America. That means the Great Divide spans two continents!

How long is the Great Divide? About 6,745 miles. To its west, rivers and streams flow into the Pacific Ocean. East of the divide, they move toward the Arctic or Atlantic Ocean. It goes through the Rocky Mountains of North America and the Andes Mountains of South America.

The Great Divide is also home to a 3,100-mile hiking trail. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail runs from Montana to New Mexico. Hikers looking for a challenge can experience altitudes ranging from 4,000 to 13,000 feet on this trail.

Would you like to hike the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail one day? Maybe you’d rather visit a place on one of the world’s other continental divides. Continental divides often fall along mountain ranges. They have some of the best views in the world!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, C3.D2.Geo.2, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.R.10

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