Uncovering the Triple Continental Divide in Potter County, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania features many amazing sites, but few are as geologically significant as the Triple Continental Divide in Potter County.
Located near Gold, PA, north of Route 6, this area is the start of three major waterways: the Allegheny River, the Genesee River, and Pine Creek. According to signage that appears near the divide, this is the only Triple Continental Divide in the country east of the Mississippi River.
I recently took the time to track down each waterway to its uppermost publicly-accessible spot. These were all road crossings, and while it would be great to go even further upstream, doing so would require crossing private land.
Triple Continental Divide Sign
The sign denoting the Triple Continental Divide is located at the intersection of Route 449 and Rooks Road. This sign offers a bit of information on why this area is special and about the three major waterways that start near here.
While not located directly on the continental divide, it’s in close proximity to it. When rain falls in this area, as it was when I visited, the water will flow from this spot into the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Great Lakes.
The Triple Continental Divide sign can be found at the following coordinates: 41.858988, -77.825243. There is a bit of space to pull off on the southbound side of the road.
The Source of the Allegheny River
The Allegheny River is one of the most well-known waterways in Pennsylvania and flows from this spot in Potter County to Pittsburgh before joining the Ohio River. In fact, the Allegheny River is the largest source of the Ohio River, which is, in turn, the largest source of the Mississippi.
The source of the Allegheny River is located 3.5 miles from the triple divide sign along Route 49. The river is so small here that I was able to easily step across it, so, don’t be expecting a major river crossing. However, there is both a historical marker and a river marker denoting the spot.
During my visit in early September, the field through which the Allegheny River was flowing was filled with fantastic wild flowers and was one of the most beautiful fields I have ever seen.
The source of the Allegheny River can be found at the following coordinates: 41.854648, -77.876235.
If you opt to pull over here for a closer look, use extreme caution as it is along a busy road and the shoulder is not very wide.
The Source of the Genesee River
The Genesee River is the second waterway with its source at the Triple Continental Divide in Potter County. This river is only in Pennsylvania for a short distance before crossing the border into New York.
However, in New York, it’s a river of incredible beauty and importance. It is the Genesee River that flows through the majestic Letchworth State Park creating a massive canyon and featuring three major waterfalls.
The river then continues to downtown Rochester where it travels through the city with two more major waterfalls. In fact, the city of Rochester was built up thanks to the mills along the banks of this river.
Finally, the Genesee River empties into Lake Ontario and eventually to the Saint Lawrence River.
The closest-accessible site to the source of the Genesee River is located just off of Route 49 to the east of the Allegheny River.
The river flows under Kidney Road and is merely a trickle at this point. This spot can be found at the following coordinates: 41.859140, -77.861574.
There is no sign at this point marking the river, but there is an informational sign along Route 449 that tells about the river, though the river can’t be seen at this spot.
The Source of Pine Creek
While Pine Creek might not be a river, it’s actually considered the largest creek in the United States.
From this spot in Potter County, Pine Creek empties into the Susquehanna River, and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, but not before flowing through the incredibly scenic Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.
Pine Creek was important to the development of the region, being first used to transport logs to market along the waterway before train tracks would come to its shores.
The source of Pine Creek is located along Route 449 south of the Triple Continental Divide marker. Sadly, there is no marker denoting the waterway at this spot.
The furthest upstream you can get to the source of Pine Creek can be found at the following coordinates: 41.855915, -77.814198. There is a small amount of room to pull over a car on the southbound side of the road.
If you opt to stop here, use extreme caution as there is little room to pull over, the shoulder is quite narrow, and it is along a busy road.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]