The Great Divide at Milner Pass
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Rocky Mountain National Park is located west of Estes Park and north and east of Grand Lake. This is a fee area of the National Park Service, and costs $30 per vehicle. This fee is covered in the Rocky Mountain National Park Annual Pass, the Rocky Mountain National Park/Arapaho National Recreation Area Annual Pass, and the America the Beautiful Pass. Please see the following website (visit link) for the entire fee schedule. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Road and Trail Conditions and Closures can be found at: (visit link) Recorded information for the condition of Trail Ridge Road can be found by calling (970) 586-1222. Please remember that all geologic features within the borders of Rocky Mountain National Park are protected by law, as are all natural and historic features. Please do not disturb, damage, or remove any rocks, plants, or animals.
This EarthCache is accessed off of Trail Ridge Road at the Milner Pass parking area and is fully accessible.
The Continental Divide, also called the Great Divide, is part of a hemispheric boundary line which separates watersheds in a primarily east-west direction. Between Canada and Mexico, the Great Divide runs for about 3,100 miles. West of the Divide, water flows to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. East of the Divide, water flows to the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay, or the Arctic Ocean.
The Divide may seem like a permanent feature, but over geologic time much can change. Mountains are pushed up and eroded away. Tectonic plates move, can split apart, or come crashing together. Localized climatic events like glaciation can cause new drainage patterns to be gouged out or block old outlets. Human changes in landscape (such as the Grand Ditch on the east side of the Never Summer Mountain Range), can cause water to end up in a different drainage from where it originally fell.
In Rocky Mountain National Park, the Divide enters the park on the west side near Mt. Nimbus in the Never Summer Mountain Range. From here, the Divide follows the crest of the Never Summer Mountains north and east through La Poudre Pass, south through Specimen Mountain and across Milner Pass generally southeasterly through the crest of Mount Ida and Flattop Mountain, continuing southerly past Taylor Peak, Mount Alice, and Isolation Peak, before leaving the Park near the St. Vrain Glaciers in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Within the Park, the majority of the Divide follows mountain peaks and ridges, or alpine tundra, passing through forested lands only at La Poudre Pass and Milner Pass. Along with numerous smaller creeks, the Divide is the origin for the Colorado River and Cache la Poudre River.
To log this EarthCache, send me an email with the answers to these questions:
1. Precipitation which falls on the south side of the sign will fall into which drainage?
2. Precipitation which drains into the nearest pond or lake will flow into which drainage?
Please consider posting photos of yourself, or the local geology, when you log this EarthCache. Photos can be an additional rewarding part of your journey, but posting them is not a requirement for logging this EarthCache, and is strictly optional. In addition, as part of your log, tell me which drainage you live in, and where the precipitation which falls there eventually ends up.
The above information was compiled from the following sources:
Cole, J.C., and Braddock, W.A. 2009. Geologic map of the Estes Park 30’ x 60’ quadrangle, north-central Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3039, 1 sheet, scale 1:100,000, 1 pamphlet, 56 p.
Rocky Mountain National Park Pamphlet and Map.
Rocky Mountain National Park. Online at: (visit link)
The National Atlas of the United States. Online at: (visit link)
Rocky Mountain National Park was most helpful in the background discussion, aid in the choosing of sites, and review of this EarthCache. My thanks to the Park for allowing the placement of this EarthCache!
(No hints available.)
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum