Waukesha Sub-continental Divide

A cache by Doctor Dolittle Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 12/16/2008
In Wisconsin, United States
2 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

Located in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin on Main Street.  There is no parking on Main Street here so park across the street on Westchester Drive.

This is not your typical geocache-it is an earthcache.  You will not find a "cache container" at the listed coordinates.  An earthcache is designed to bring you to a geological feature and educate you.  Of course, as with any geocache you can earn a "find" if you complete the requirements listed at the bottom.





A sub-continental divide is a topographic feature. Sub-continental Divides result over millions of years during the formation of the earth as mountain ranges form and the earth’s crust folds, terrain erodes and ridges and peaks are formed.  This natural boundary line of elevated terrain forms a border between two distinct watersheds. A watershed is a region draining into a river, river system, or other body of water. The sub-continental divide determines which direction surface water flows from rain or snow melt. As you stand at ground zero, notice that you are on a crest of land. The water west of our sub-continental divide flows in the Fox River watershed, the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.  The water flowing east of our sub-continental divide drains into the Menomonee River watershed, Lake Michigan, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and finally the Atlantic Ocean.

In North American there are four continental divides: Eastern, Northern, Great and this St. Lawrence Seaway Divide. See the map below.  As you stand at the earthcache coordinates you are standing on the St. Lawrence Seaway Divide.




When you think of water shortages Las Vegas, California or Florida may come to mind. In contrast, the great lakes region has one of the largest stores of freshwater on earth. Ironically, we are depleting our vast water resources as well. Believe it or not, it is true. Water is a contentious issue in local and state governments.

Waukesha County currently pumps much of its water from a deep aquifer or water source. That water is being taken a rate of 10 times greater than what naturally would flow through that source. As a result, a underground dynamics of that source have drastically changed.

Water levels in the deep aquifer are declining. Even more concerning is the fact that radium is now found in the ground water. In 2003 the city's deep wells exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency safety standards for radium contamination.

Unfortunately, the deep aquifer can only produce a set amount of clean water. So, in the future water must come from other sources to supplement the city's needs. Lake Michigan is the logical choice, but it's not that easy. Waukesha County is mostly west of the sub-continental divide so it does not have rights to use the surface water from Lake Michigan. It is not part of the Great Lakes basin area near Lake Michigan that lies east of our sub-continental divide.  See the blue map of the Great Lakes basin. Great Lakes water usage is strictly regulated. Under current law (the Federal Water Resources Defense Act), water out the Great Lakes basin or watershed are prohibited unless all Great Lakes governors approve them.

The sub-continental divide where you will make this earthcache find has huge implications in politics and your every day life. It is truly astounding that in such a water rich environment there would be struggle for rights to water usage.



In order to log this earthcache you must complete task number one:

1.    Email me the answers to these questions:

a.    What are the four areas noted on the right side of the sign at ground zero?

b.    Which one of the four major north american sub-continental divides are you standing on at ground zero?

c.    Is most of Waukesha County east or west of the sub-continental divide?

2.    Optional: Take a self photo with your GPS or your team with a GPS at the sign. Then post the photo with your log. If you're a lone cacher, hold your camera at arms length to get a self photo, please.  Please do not post a photo that shows the answers on the sign. Stand in front of the right side of the sign to cover the answers when you take a photo or take a a photo of the sign at a harsh angle to obscure the answers. Thanks!


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"Q & A: Water Issues in Waukesha."

This reference deals with the issue of responsible growth management in water demand.


Additional Hints (No hints available.)



229 Logged Visits

Found it 220     Write note 8     Publish Listing 1     

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 6/15/2017 6:13:56 AM Pacific Daylight Time (1:13 PM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum