|Rivers Run From It |
This activity aligns with the following National Geography Standards: 1—The World in Spatial Terms: How to Use Maps and Other Geographic Representations, Tools, and Technologies to Acquire, Process, and Report Information from a Spatial Perspective.
Many of the most famous rivers in North America have their origins in the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies form the Continental Divide, which means that rivers originating there flow either to the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean. In this activity, students will trace the paths of some Rocky Mountain rivers and then indicate the general location of the Continental Divide.
- a large wall map of North America
- access to research materials—encyclopedias, atlases, the Internet
- blue marker
Time required: 1–2 hours for research, map activity, and discussion
1. Divide the class into groups and assign each group to research one of the following rivers:
2. One at a time, have each group come to the map and trace the path of its river on the map with the blue marker. While one group member traces the path, another should describe the location of the river’s source, any major cities along its path, and the body of water into which the river empties. If a river empties into another river, the path of that river should be traced until it reaches a major body of water—the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, etc.
3. Hold a class discussion on what the Continental Divide is—the sometimes sinuous line of mountain peaks and ridges that separate waters flowing into the Pacific Ocean from those flowing into the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico. If your students are familiar with the concept of watersheds, try to frame this discussion in terms of two major watersheds in the United States—the Atlantic and the Pacific.
4. Then ask one or more students to approach the map and indicate where they think the Continental Divide is located. Have them explain why they chose that location.
5. Compare their guesses to a map that shows the actual location of the Divide. (See the map in the article.)