The Alaska Highway crosses the continental divide at one of its lowest points at the confluence of the Swift and Rancheria rivers. There is only a small hill to traverse which is quite a difference from climbing the high peaks of the Brooks Range where I last crossed the divide in northern Alaska.
As I stood in the sand day dreaming of all the places where these river waters would next visit I was reminded of this curious aspect of the design of the North American continent. Float a leaf in the Rancheria and it would pass through the Laird River near Watson Lake, continue on to the Mackenzie in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and finally reach the Beauford Sea part of the sprawling Arctic Ocean some 2650 miles away.
The same little leaf, however, if left in the Swift would find its way back to Teslin Lake. The Teslin River would spirit it into the mighty Yukon River and clear across Alaska where it would reach the Bearing Sea part of the Pacific Ocean. This journey would be 2300 miles.