Parting of the Waters: a creek that flows to two oceans

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There are some interesting "holes" in the Continental Divide as it makes its way through Wyoming. Many people are familiar with the "Great Divide Basin". I-80 runs through it between Rock Springs and Rawlins. Alert travelers along this highway might find it curious that they pass two roadsigns marking the Divide. The reason is that they are traveling through a basin that doesn't drain to any ocean; it only drains into itself. Below is a map (courtesy of DeLorme's Wyoming Atlas and Gazeteer):

Wyoming has another "hole" in the Continental Divide - although it's the opposite kind of hole, and I have yet to come across a published map that shows it correctly.

This other hole in the Divide is there because of North Two Ocean Creek. This stream flows down from a plateau, and then squarely hits a ridge that forms the summit of Two Ocean Pass. This ridge also happens to be a segment of the Continental Divide. Upon hitting this ridge, Two Ocean Creek splits, sending some of its water down each side of the Divide. This spot is known as the "Parting of the Waters" National Natural Landmark. As far as I know, North Two Ocean Creek is the only stream in the country that sends its water to two oceans.

One fork of Two Ocean Creek becomes Pacific Creek; it flows into the Snake River near Moran Jct. in Grand Teton National Park. The Snake eventually flows into the Columbia, which drains into the Pacific Ocean. The other stream is called - you guessed it - Atlantic Creek. It flows into the Yellowstone, not far from that river's own headwaters. The Yellowstone is a tributary of the Missouri, which of course flows into the Mississippi and the Atlantic Ocean.

That's why an accurate map should show North Two Ocean Creek's entire watershed as a "hole" in the Continental Divide.

Not the kind of hole that drains only into itself.

But a hole in which any drop of water may flow into either ocean - depending simply upon which way it splashes when it hits the Parting of the Waters.

Here's how I see it:

The basemap is the "Two Ocean Pass" quad from the USGS 7.5 minute series, dated 1996. Their line marking the Continental Divide runs along the east side of North Two Ocean Creek's watershed. I submit that there should also be a line on the west rim. There's no question that any water in this basin will flow to an ocean. However, to which ocean any given drop will flow is arbitrary.

On this map, I've drawn in my best estimate of the western limit of the watershed, and I've highlighted both lines in green. I also drew the tiny "X" in a circle, which marks the location of the Parting of the Waters. The pink line shows the trail that two of my nephews and I took in August of 1999 to see the spot (you can view photos and learn more on the next page).