Article by Central Staff
Triple Divide – June 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine
The Little Mountain That Divides 3 Basins And Deserves a Name
Back in December of 1995, we published an article about an unnamed bump on the Continental Divide between 13,269-foot Mt. Antora and 11,885-foot Windy Peak, about four miles south of the top of Marshall Pass.
George Sibley of Gunnison, who wrote the article, observed that this 11,862-foot summit isn’t much of a mountain by local standards, but that its drainage position more than compensates for its lack of altitude.
It is, or can be construed to be, a rare triple divide. One side drains into Silver Creek and eventually the Arkansas River, the Mississippi and the Atlantic Ocean. The west side sends water down Marshall Creek, which reaches the Gunnison River and then the Colorado River and the Sea of Cortez.
Another side’s drainage flows toward the Rio Grande — let’s leave it at that for the moment, since the downstream plumbing, both natural and artificial, is hideously complicated.
Sibley concluded that “…any hill that feeds three great and distinct river basins — a hill that sits at the center of a huge and diverse geographic and cultural region — has a richness and stature independent of size obsessions. Such a hill deserves a name, not just a number.
“But what should it be? Sitting on the hill Labor Day weekend, we thought of a few possibilities. The obvious: Headwaters Peak (Hill? Hump? Hummock?). Convergence Peak? No, Divergence Peak? Mother of All Waters Mountain?
“Well, there’s no hurry. A few more people should visit it, conscious of where they are, and the name will come.”
Well, a name has come to one Dale Sanderson, a cartographer who lives in Aurora. He was scanning his maps, looking for triple divides (called “pyramids” by Marshall Sprague in The Great Gates) that serve major watersheds, and found 13,852-foot McNamee Peak near Leadville — Colorado, South Platte and Arkansas rivers.
He figured there should be a triple divide for the Arkansas, Colorado, and Rio Grande (rivers that, unlike the South Platte and Arkansas, never meet before reaching the sea). He looked south on his maps, and like Sibley, he found the non-descript 11,862-foot mountain that doesn’t have a name.
As Sanderson recounts on his web site (http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3162/), “Since then, it’s become a goal of mine to give this peak an officially recognized name. From what I can tell, there are only four other spots in the entire continental U.S. that can make the same claim.”
His proposal: Three Rivers Point. The Three Rivers part is obvious, and as for Point, “the terms peak or mountain might convey a bit too much sense of the monumental for this particular mountain. I believe that the term point serves as a slightly softer word, yet still implies a prominence… the word point does help to emphasize the geographic significance of it.”
Sanderson has a form on his website, and if he gets enough interest (he really wants to hear from people in this area), he wants to submit Three Rivers Point to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.
We’re sort of fond of Headwaters Hump for the spot. Another possibility: just go with Mountain of Three Rivers in Spanish — Cerro de Tres Rios — and then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether it’s a rise, hump, peak, point, or mountain. Some consultation with the Southern Utes — this was the heart of their territory — might also produce an apt name.
On the other hand, Three Rivers Point would go well with its two counterparts in the West: Triple Divide Peak in Montana and Three Waters Mountain in Wyoming.
At any rate, Sanderson would like to know what you think, and you can reach him at his website or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By all accounts, it’s an easy stroll, so as soon as the snow clears, take a look for yourself and ponder some nomenclature. As Sibley observed, “A few more people should visit it, conscious of where they are, and the name will come.”