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W

e hate to throw cold water on the celebrity status of any of our majestic Montana mountains, but recent studies have caused us to review a long-held belief. It’s widely held that Triple Divide Peak on the Continental Divide in southern Glacier National Park is so named because it sends waters to three oceans, one of only two such apexes in all of North America to do so. Waters draining from the west side of the peak clearly enter the Pacific Ocean through Nyack Creek and the Flathead, Clarks Fork and Columbia rivers. By way of Atlantic Creek, North Fork Cut Bank Creek, the Marias River and other tributaries flowing into the Missouri and on to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean receives Triple Divide’s east flank runoff. This is all well documented.

perhaps it is the other way around. If this is all true, that would leave only one mountain - Snow Dome, a high ice-covered peak on the north side of the Columbia Ice Fields in Jasper National Park, Canada - to truly hold the distinction. With this massif, it is certain waters reach the Pacific via the Columbia River system; to the Atlantic from Hudson’s Bay (assuming again that Hudson’s Bay is part of the Atlantic as Jasper National Park folks believe); and all precipitation and melt on the north side drains to the Athabasca Glacier (a tongue of the Columbia Ice Fields), which forms the Athabasca River, which in turn pours into the McKenzie River flowing north through the Yukon and finally emptying into the Arctic Ocean.

An interesting question to ponder: If Hudson Bay could be proven to Now here’s the rub. discharge into the Popular belief holds Arctic Ocean and that snowmelt and not the Atlantic, raindrops falling on then Montana’s the northern gradiTriple Divide Peak ent of Triple Divide would be the only Peak, entering Hudpeak truly launchson Bay Creek, help ing waters to three fill St. Mary’s Lake, oceans. As it is, this which empties into Glacier National the St. Mary’s River, The red pin with the letter A is the location of Triple Divide Peak – Google Map Park summit does which leads through flow in three directhe Saskatchewan tions but apparently River system north and northeast to Hudson Bay, not to three seas. J. Gordon Edwards’ book, A Climbeventually ending up in the Arctic Ocean. ers Guide to Glacier National Park, states that waters from the peak go to the Pacific, Atlantic and North However, currents show that Hudson Bay is part of Atlantic; no mention of the Arctic Ocean. Canadian the Atlantic Ocean. Tidal exchanges occur through geographers feel the same way, including Dr. Derald deep straits connecting the Bay to the Atlantic. The in- G. Smith, former Professor of Geography and chair of lets leading to the Arctic Ocean are shallow; therefore the Department of Earth Science at The University of Hudson Bay most likely does not add to the Arctic and Calgary.

Crown of the Continent  

University of Montana's Crown of the Continent