At an elevation of 10,857 feet, the great Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado is located in the Rio Grande National Forest and the San Juan National Forest — and it is only one of many locations at which one can stand on the ridge which divides the continents of North America and South America.
The Great Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado
To get to the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass from the east, head west on the winding and twisting route of United States Highway 160. The view shown in the above photograph is facing the opposite direction…
…as at least one tunnel must be driven through prior to reaching what has also been known as the Great Divide — especially in old movies, television programs, and books whose theme or location was the Old West or the Wild West.
One can symbolically straddle or stand on the official marking of the Continental Divide, which acts as the “spine” or “backbone” of the Western Hemisphere. Spring thaws begin as trickles, grow to gushes, and become torrents, sending water to every part of the continent: west to the Pacific Ocean; south to the Gulf of Mexico; east to the Atlantic Ocean; and north to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. Along the way, water — which is considered to be the essential building block of life on earth — supports nature and civilization.
An average of 460 inches of snow — which is greater than 38 feet — accumulates every year at Wolf Creek Pass, which is part of the San Juan Mountain Range. That snow becomes water, which begins its venture on a long journey that eventually generally ends at either the Atlantic Ocean to the east or the Pacific Ocean to the west.
The views are so breathtaking just west of the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass that even birds are compelled to stop and take in all of the scenery.
The Continental Divide follows the crest of the Rocky Mountains, which begins north in Brook Range in Alaska; and continues south through South America all the way to the Strait of Magellan.
Although one can drive to various points of the Continental Divide, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is the longest scenic trail in the United States. It stretches 3,102 miles — from the border that the United States shares with Mexico in southern New Mexico to the border that the United States shares with Canada in northern Montana — through 25 national forests and three national parks while crossing 475 regions of water drainage which are known as watersheds.
Despite the fact that from 2015 to 2019…
- 47 semi-truck drivers have crashed on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass
- Three truck drivers have been killed in crashes on the Pass
- Most crashes occur at the switchback curve near the Wolf Creek scenic outlook area
…the drive along United States Highway 160 is worth the spectacular views of the landscape in Colorado. Just be careful and exercise caution while driving it; and you will be fine.
Final Boarding Call
The Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass is located on United States Highway 160 in southern Colorado. No admission is charged, as it is little more than a rest stop along the highway; it is never closed to the public; and no facilities are available.
I have been to the Continental Divide in several places — including in Yellowstone National Park, which is one of the three national parks through which the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail winds — but along Interstate 10 in New Mexico, the Continental Divide appears flat and unimpressive.
All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.