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Tale of Two Raindrops: Nicolet’s Watershed Divide

Hidden : 1/9/2009
In Wisconsin, United States
1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Size: Size: not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

Tale of Two Raindrops: Nicolet’s Watershed Divide

As this is an EarthCache, there is no container and there are special logging requirements which must be met in order to log the find. Logs not meeting the stated requirements may be deleted.

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

In 1634, Jean Nicolet, a French explorer, “discovered” this area. The Nicolet Forest was established in 1933 and now comprises over 661,000 acres. There are over 1,500 ponds and lakes here with 34,000 surface acres of water and 500 miles of shoreline. Over 500 miles of fresh water streams snake through the forest.

The forest features over 800 miles of trails which are open for hiking, mountain biking, cross country skiing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and even dog sledding. Animals common to the forest include black bear, deer, wolves, bald eagles, loons, grouse, waterfowl, many species of songbirds and small mammals including the American Sables and the Fisher. If you choose to bring your own pets, you will need to keep them on a leash at all times and away from all beach areas.

Imagine two raindrops falling from the clouds and landing only a few inches apart here at the Nicolet watershed divide. One falls just to the east of the ridge and the other falls a bit further west. These drops of water will take very different paths. The raindrops have fallen into different water basins and will end up over a thousand miles apart in two different oceans.

A watershed is a land area which is drained by a stream or river. The borders of a watershed are called "divides", because they divide the water's flow. In gently sloping terrain, divides may be hardly noticeable. In other areas divides can be mountains. Most small watersheds contribute to larger watersheds.

In hilly country, divides normally lie along topographical peaks and ridges, but in flat country (especially where the ground is marshy) the divide may be invisible – just a more or less notional line on the ground on either side of which falling raindrops will start a journey to different rivers, and even to different sides of a region or continent.

Wisconsin is divided into 3 major river basins each identified by the primary water-body into which the basin drains. Wisconsin’s major river basins are the Lake Superior Basin, Mississippi River Basin and the Lake Michigan Basin.

This location sits atop the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan divide. Water falling to the east of the nearby marker will flow into Franklin and Butternut lakes and then make their way to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Lake Michigan Basin. Water falling to the west of the marker will flow into the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers then on to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi River Basin.

Mississippi River Basin

The Mississippi River drainage basin is the world's second largest, draining 1.83 million square miles including tributaries from thirty-two U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The Mississippi River watershed encompasses 40 percent of the contiguous United States .

Lake Michigan Basin

The Lake Michigan basin covers more than 45,000 square miles and drains parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Lake Michigan discharges into Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac at a rate that allows for a complete change of water about every 100 years.


1. Do you think the location of the marker is the actual site of the watershed?
2. Why or why not?
3. What is your altitude reading at the informational marker?
(optional) Take and upload a photo of yourself (or your GPS) at the informational marker.

Sources & Permission:

Permission for this listing has been granted by:
Gregory A. Knight, CPSS Minerals & Geology Program Manager Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Guidelines for Geocaching in the Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest can be found HERE.

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89 Logged Visits

Found it 86     Write note 2     Publish Listing 1     

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 8/29/2014 5:13:12 AM Pacific Daylight Time (12:13 PM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum