Swimming across North America

It’s theoretically possible to swim across North America from the Pacific to the Atlantic, thanks to a strange creek in north-west Wyoming.

Two Oceans Pass
Barton Warren Evermann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Within Bridger-Teton National Forest in north-west Wyoming there is an unusual creek: North Two Ocean Creek. This tiny watercourse splits in two, following two distinct paths that lead in opposite directions. One, Pacific Creek, flows into the Snake River, then Columbia, and finally out into the Pacific. The other, Atlantic Creek, flows into Yellowstone River, Missouri River, and then Mississippi River. More than five thousand kilometres after North Two Ocean Creek, it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

The point at which the two creeks separate is called – appropriately enough – the Parting of the Waters. If you were a fish, it’s entirely possible to swim from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Atlantic via this passage. And it’s not the only way across the continent. Up in Canada, there’s a lake called Committee’s Punch Bowl. It drains into the Pacific (also via the Columbia River) but also into the Arctic via the Mackenzie River. So a fish could swim into the lake upstream from the Pacific, and then swim downstream into the Arctic (or vice versa).

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