I have driven by the sign for the Laurentian Divide on the Gunflint Trail countless times. I have stopped there to take in the view but had never really given the Divide much thought. The last time I stopped there I must have been in a contemplative mood because I couldn’t grasp the concept that water on one side of the Divide flowed north to Hudson Bay and on the other side flowed south to the Gulf of Mexico.
The thought of water flowing in two different directions on either side of the Laurentian Divide is difficult for me to understand. After reading the following information on a website I became even more confused, "The Laurentian Divide runs along the crest of low, rocky hills and divides the Red River and Rainy River basins from the Minnesota River and Lake Superior basins. Streams on the north slope of the divide flow through Canada to Hudson Bay. On the south side of the divide, streams flow south to Lake Superior or on to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico."
It sounded complicated to me and then I remembered earlier this summer there was a request to put up a big, blue sign there that explained the water there was part of the Lake Superior Watershed. I became more confused when I remembered the term basin being used so I looked into it and found out more information then I probably needed to know, but will share with you anyway. Basically a basin is the largest watershed management unit with 1000 to 10,000 square miles typically covered. This is divided into sub basins which are further divided into watersheds that cover an area of 10 to 100 square miles. Now I am less confused.
The next time I stop at the Laurentian Divide on the Gunflint Trail I will look at the area with brand new eyes. Eyes that will not only see the new picnic table and latrine down by the water or the beautiful view of Birch Lake but eyes that will also see how this little spot in the world affects the bigger picture in life.