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Columbia University Press
Continental Divide
the "backbone" of a continent. In North America, from N Alaska to New Mexico, it moves along the crest of the Rocky Mts., which separates westward-flowing streams from eastward-flowing waters. In SW New Mexico the divide crosses an area of low relief; it becomes more distinct in N Mexico, where it follows the Sierra Madre Occidental. In the United States it has been called the Great Divide, a name also occasionally used to designate the whole Rocky Mt. system, especially the southern section, where the high, rugged ranges presented an almost impenetrable barrier to westbound explorers and settlers. Glacier, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain national parks lie on the Continental Divide, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail runs along it (see National Parks and Monuments, table).