Eastern Continental Divide in Georgia
Click (HERE) to see the Eastern Continental Divide in North Carolina)
(Divides drainage between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic) -by Jack Yeazel

(14 Jan. 2006 -Add Lake Claire Mural Project )
(23 Mar. 2007 -Add unified maps of the ECD in Georgia)
(12 April 2011 -Add ECD in Duluth, Norcross, and N. Georgia

As far as we can determine, there is no map of this dividing line in existence as of 2003.  This being the case, it was decided to research the Divide in Georgia.  The Georgia Information Geologist* directed me to a map of the major river drainage in Georgia (below).  This map can be found at: http://csat.er.usgs.gov/ga_epd/index.html

A red line (which is the Divide) has been added to the original map, above.  Detailed map and GIS information can be downloaded for each of these river basins from the above site and viewed with ArcExplorer -also available at the site.  These maps can show (or not show) major roads, smaller roads, county lines, topo maps, etc.  By comparing the "clues" from these maps, I created GPS waypoints at identifiable landmarks and on drivable roads where possible.

Click these maps to see more detailed versions.
First maps (ever) of Georgia showing the ECD


Download the complete map (now out of print) of Georgia Early Trails and Roads, 1730 to 1850 ( HERE).  This map is also an OziExplorer GPS map.

The Eastern Continental Divide (ECD) line apparently starts at the southern tip of Florida and proceeds northward along Central Florida and enters Georgia between Tallahassee and Jacksonville.  It skirts the east side of the Okefenokee Swamp on an ancient seashore.  The "swamp water" drains into the Suwanee River -and into the Gulf.  From Georgia, it traverses the eastern states, and eventually loops back westward through northern Pennsylvania, past Chicago, and on into Wisconsin.

With the Georgia GIS maps as a reference, 230 GPS waypoints were created on the ECD using Street Atlas, and USGS 1:24,000 DRG topo maps.  (A more detailed Garmin ECD track file from S. Atlanta to  NE. Georgia is available (HERE).   Other GPS data files are included at the end of this document.)

In Georgia for the most part, pre Civil War railroads follow the Divide.  This made good economic sense, because there would be very few RR bridges over streams and rivers that needed to be built.  Thus plotting on them is relatively easy.  The line continues north to the City of Atlanta -and right through Underground Atlanta! (at left, below).  From Atlanta, the line runs eastward along the Georgia Railroad, passing by the site of the Battle of Atlanta and through Agnes Scott College.

See HERE for the "Mural" project.

Compare this old map to the one above.  The railroads are black lines.

Unfortunately, the topography and houses of the battle have been completely destroyed.  Using present-day landmarks, the battle stretched from just south of the Carter Center to the intersection of Moreland Avenue (which runs due north/south) and I-20.  From here it formed an arc to Glenwood Avenue finally ending up in the vicinity of Memorial Drive and Clay Street, almost to the site of Jesse Clay's house (CLAY).

The area around "Hurt House" and the railroad is the exact spot featured in the Cyclorama painting and diorama of the Battle of Atlanta in Grant Park.  The Hurt House has been replaced by a small Stone Church.  "Mac-Monume" is the location of Gen. James McPherson's monument where he fell, and "Walker" is the location of Gen. W.H.T. Walker's monument where he fell.  These waypoints are included in the data below.  Visit (THIS) site for more driving information.

Click on thumbnails for larger pictures

Troup-Hurt House Present Site * Cyclorama Brochure with Hurt House on Left * Gen. McPherson Monument
Views from the Cyclorama vantage point can be seen (HERE).

"Leggett" is part of a ridge along which Moreland Avenue runs.  The "hill" portion of the ridge runs north of I-20 and a few feet east of the present-day road. As soon as the hill was taken, Union soldiers renamed it Leggett's Hill, after their commander.  This name is still used today.  Leggett's Hill is now in the center of an on-ramp loop to I-20, a sorry end to an important part of our history.

All that's left of Leggett's Hill  -Looking North along Moreland Ave. and East along I-20 in East Atlanta

MORROW, GEORGIA (Thumbnails)
Proceeding south from Atlanta, the ECD follows the railroad (or actually, it was the other way around).  Our high-resolution ECD plot ends at Morrow.  In these photos by Gene Conway, the Divide is barely discernible due to the flatness of the land there.

To see a more-detailed Divide as it passes through NE Georgia communities, click (HERE).

I've only seen two signs designating the "Eastern Continental Divide".  One is in Mountain City, Ga and the other on Hwy. 28 approaching Highlands, NC from the south where the elevation is about 3,760 feet.  A contributor has noted that there is a sign on I-40 between between Old Fort and Black Mountain. NC.
To visit the ECD through Norcross, GA, see (HERE) and Duluth, GA (HERE)
Gainesville Georgia
Jack and Al are where the ECD travels along the instrument runway of the Gainesville airport and through the cemetery, -which is sandwiched between the ILS transmitter and the end of the runway.
I doubt that these Dearly Departed are 'Resting in Peace'!

Jack stands where the ECD crosses Hwy. 441/23 in Mountain City, GA, labeled the "Blue Ridge Divide"
-which is part of the Tennessee Valley Divide
Once reaching North Georgia near Turnerville (D-81), the ECD turns northwestward through mostly National Forests.  (It would be interesting to know if anyone ever hiked the ECD in the North Georgia Mountains).  Eventually, the Divide connects to the boundary of the Tennessee Valley Authority (T-00) which becomes the ECD in North Carolina.  The Appalachian Trail follows the TVA boundary and ECD in this area.  The ECD crosses the GA-NC border three times, eventually running north along the North Carolina Piedmont.


This is an interesting graphic of the location of Commissioners Rock at waypoint C-1.  The other waypoints, T-49A and T-50 are on the ECD (Tennessee Valley Divide, heavy line).  The road is Bald Rd, which runs south from GA Hwy. 246/NC Hwy. 106 just east of Mountain City, GA.  We thought it would be interesting to visit this "rock".  The GA-NC border ("Forest Boundary line") is some 0.3 miles south of the 35th parallel (slanted line at the top of the map, which is the 1800s agreed-on boundary indicating the error of the survey at that time.)


THIS Commissioner's Rock at "C-1" (only about two feet tall) is NOT the one you find searching the internet.  THAT rock (some 10 miles east along the state border) is the recognized triple border point of NC, SC,  and GA.

But before the "more famous" Commissioner's Rock was placed, Andrew Ellicott, a noted surveyor (and the man who finished the design of Washington D.C.), was commissioned by North Carolina and Georgia to determine the boundary between the states.  He completed his survey in 1811 by chiseling an inconspicuous mark on a rock on the east bank of the Chattooga River. This rock is found inside the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area, and it is named Ellicott Rock after its founder.

It is located along the Chattooga River Trail from Burrell's Ford to US 76.  Ellicott's mark was disputed by the commission which hired him, and the dispute was so intense that the commission refused to pay Ellicott for his work on this survey.  Ellicott Rock is simply engraved, "N C".

About 15 feet south of Ellicott Rock is Commissioner's Rock with an inscription that reads LAT 35, AD 1813, NC + SC.  This error seems insignificant compared to the "Commissioner's Rock" on Bald Rd.!  Both rocks are only about 100 feet north (at this location) of the true 35th parallel.



Garmin Mapping Hand-helds Load (THIS) track file into MapSource, then upload the tracks into a mapping unit.  These are detailed tracks of the ECD from Morrow, Atlanta, Tucker, Norcross, Duluth, Lula, Alto, Baldwin, Cornelia, Mt. Airy, and on to the GA. NC, TN triple boundary point.

Magellan MapSend: DivideMagellan.wpt is a file to directly upload the waypoints and comments to Magellan's MapSend program.

Ozi Explorer file, OziDivideWp.wpt, contains the Divide waypoints and OziDivideRt.rte contains the routes for uploading to USGS DRG type of maps. (Waypoints must be uploaded first).  (This is a low-detail route).

Excel: DivideWaypoints.csv contains the Lat/Long of the waypoints, comments, and altitude where available.  It's not (directly) uploadable to any receiver without modification.  The "Reference Distance" is the distance north from the Florida/Georgia border.  "A" waypoints are northward from the Florida border, "D" waypoints NE from Atlanta to the TVA watershed, and "T" waypoints on the TVA watershed.  This file can be viewed without any intervening GPS system.

Don't you think some enterprising person should take up this project and map the ECD in North Carolina and beyond!  It's interesting (at least to me) that all the water north-west of the Piedmont drains THROUGH the Smoky Mountains although they reach 6,000 feet altitude.  (One can sit on the back decks of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the edge of the Piedmont for many miles.)

-Happy Divide trekking.  -jack yeazel

*Georgia DNR/EPD/Geologic Survey (Suite400/ 19 M.L. King Jr. Drive, SW/ Atlanta, GA 30334-9004/ 404 656-3214)


Click for more detailed map

Other US Divides * Text by Mark A. Gonzalez
Triple Points:
A triple point, or triple divide, is the place where two continental divides intersect and water drains into three different watersheds. Five widely-recognized triple divides exist in the United States, including: Triple Divide Peak, Montana, The Hill of Three Waters, Minnesota, Three Waters Mountain, Wyoming, an unnamed hilltop near Gold, Pennsylvania, and the unofficially named Headwaters Hill, Colorado.

Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park, Montana, marks the intersection of the Great Divide and Northern Divide. Water is diverted from Triple Divide Peak into the Pacific-bound Columbia basin, the Gulf of Mexico-bound Missouri basin, and the Hudson Bay-bound Saskatchewan and Nelson drainages.

Another triple point exists in northern Minnesota near Hibbing. Here the Northern Divide intersects the St.Lawrence Seaway Divide. From this point, water flows in three directions, north to Hudson Bay, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and east to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Chippewa Indians referred to the location as "The Hill of Three Waters" or "The Top of the World" and frequently held their council meetings there for tribes living within about a 100-mile radius. The site is not publicly accessible due to mining operations. Its official platting is Section 26, Township 58, Range 21. (Hibbing Chamber of Commerce, 2001.

Another triple point exists atop an unnamed peak near Gold, Pennsylvania, where waters separate into the Mississippi, Great Lakes, and Susquehanna drainages.  Hopefully, someone will champion a fitting name for so distinguished a peak.

Two other peaks have been suggested as triple points: Headwater Hill in south-central Colorado, and Three Waters Mountain in west-ern Wyoming. Three Waters Mountain in Wyoming is the source of the Columbia, Colorado, and Missouri-Mississippi river systems. Technically, both the Columbia and Colorado rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean, although the Colorado River empties into the Sea of Cortez before its waters co-mingle with those of the Pacific Ocean. From Headwater Hill, water diverges into the Colorado River, the Rio Grande drainage, and the Arkansas-Mississippi drainage. However, both the Rio Grande and Arkansas drain into the Gulf of Mexico, making the case for triple-point status of Headwater Hill somewhat less certain than the other four triple points. By the definition I have adopted herein, the Sea of Cortez and the mouth of the Columbia River would be distinct coastlines, and the Three Water Moun-tain would qualify as a triple point. In contrast, the mouths of the Rio Grande and Mississippi River share the same coastline—the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, the status of Headwater Hill as a triple divide is more dubious than that of the other four triplepoints.

Closed Basins:
To various extents, some geography texts have pointed out that not all of North America has drainage to an ocean. For example, the Great Divide Basin, which sprawls across much of Nevada, and parts of Wyoming, Colorado, California, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon is internally drained (Fig. 3). Internal drainage means that no river carries water out of the basin. Also, the Great Divide actually bifurcates in Wyoming creating another closed basin (Fig. 3). Another sizable, closed basin exists in the Lake Estancia basin of central New Mexico. And extensive parts of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta are closed basins. No geography text that I have found shows that the Devils Lake basin and parts of the Missouri Coteau province in North Dakota are closed basins. Because these basins have no external drainage, they are not technically part of any watershed that drains to the ocean. They are in effect rimmed by a continental divide. As discussed below, these basins are only temporarily closed as water may spill into an externally draining river if the water level rises high enough.

The Fourth Dimension (Time) of Continental Divides Lost:
Thus far in this treatise on continental divides is the fourth dimension, time. The entire discussion has examined only the continental divides as observed today. However, the number and position of continental divides is strongly affected by climatic and tectonic forces, which can raise mountain ranges and alter drainage patterns. Let’s explore how climatic forces have affected the continental divides and drainage in North Dakota.

In the 1930s, North Dakota suffered a major drought.  Lake levels fell in the region. The water level in Devils Lake fell to 1401 feet above mean sea level. In 1993, a wet interval began in northeastern North Dakota and the lake rose to 1448 feet above mean sea level by 2001 (it has since dropped slightly). If the lake should rise to an elevation of 1459 feet, as it has in the geologic past (Murphy et al., 1997), water will spill by natural processes out of the lake basin and into the Sheyenne River, which eventually flows to Hudson Bay.  The rise and fall of Devils Lake in response to natural climatic fluctuations illustrates a case where closed basins can become inte-grated into through-flowing, ocean-bound drainages.

Another example of climate-induced changes in continental drainages is preserved in the history of glacial Lake Agassiz, once the largest (in surface area) freshwater lake in North America. Toward the end of the last Ice Age, continental glaciers covered much of North America, particularly the Canadian Shield and northern tier of states in the United States. North-flowing drainages, such as the Red River of the North and Nelson River, were blocked by the continental glaciers. Water ponded to form an enormous inland lake, glacial Lake Agassiz. Water rose in glacial Lake Agassiz until it spilled over into one of three outlets: a northwestern, eastern, and southern outlet. The northwest outlet shunted Lake Agassiz water to glacial Lake McConnell (located in the Northwest Territory of Canada), which in turn spilled over and drained to the Arctic Ocean.

The eastern outlet delivered water to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The southern outlet delivered water through Lake Traverse and Big Stone Lake on the South Dakota/Minnesota border and into the Minnesota River, which joins the Mississippi River at Minnea-polis, Minnesota.  Each of these three outlets drained water from glacial Lake Agassiz at different times, depending upon which paths were obstructed by glacial advances, the degree of isostatic rebound related to crustal adjustments from glacial and water loading on the earth’s crust, and the depth of water in Lake Agassiz.  These multiple drainage routes to the Arctic Ocean, Hudson Bay, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Gulf of Mexico illustrate how dynamic continental divides can be in response to climatic forces and isostatic adjustments in the crust following deglacial unloading. [Note: A recent article by T.G. Fisher (2003) provides a scientific review of the history of drain-age changes in glacial Lake Agassiz. His work includes numerous other citations on the topic.]

In recent decades, humans have altered natural drainage divides by pumping and transferring water from one basin to others, some-times across continental divides. The example of the Chicago Sanitary Canal has already been mentioned. In Colorado, water has been diverted from the West Slope of the state across the Great Divide to quench the growing thirst of the highly populated Front Range.