04-Feb-2004 -- For a long time, I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer from Colorado USA, have been wanting to visit Latitude 45 degrees North, Longitude 100 degrees West. This would not only allow me to stand on the latitude that was halfway between the Equator and the North Pole, but also stand on 100 degrees west longitude. This longitude was long considered the line that divided the Western USA (arid high plains, mountains, and deserts) from the Eastern USA (wetter, more humid central lowlands and older mountains). On a midwinter's day in 2004, I finally had the opportunity. I was en route to conduct a geographic information Systems (GIS) and GPS workshop in Pierre for elementary and secondary K-12 teachers from all across the state of South Dakota.
Earlier in the day, I had a bone-chilling walk to 46 North 101 West, but was still too cold to follow through on my original plan to visit 45 North 101 West. However, the confluence bug took hold, or what my friend Anita Palmer refers to as "Confluencers Anonymous." Therefore, while in Mobridge, I felt drawn to stop at the public library and investigate the possibility of a short side trip to 45 North 100 West. Armed with new information, I traveled south on US Highway 83, listening to one of my favorite books on tape, the 1922 "Enchanted April," by Elizabeth von Arnim. At US Highway 212, I drove two miles east toward Gettysburg, South Dakota. I passed a tract of land containing numerous triangular-shaped animal shelters, but could not determine what sort of animals were kept there. After turning south on a gravel section-line road for one mile, and then turning east for 1 mile, I found myself only 60 meters from the very confluence I had long wanted to visit.
Even though it would be a short walk, I bundled up, as the wind blew and the temperature was around 5 degrees C. The lack of trees made it easy to zero out the GPS unit, and I arrived at the site just after 4pm local time. The confluence lies on flat ground in a cultivated field, probably of sunflowers. Obviously, it was much easier to walk in the field during the winter after the crops had been harvested. The farthest horizon I could see was only 6 km away due to the gray skies and intermittent snow. Except for the trees planted in rows and surrounding farmhouses for windbreaks, the landscape was treeless in this shortgrass prairie region. I saw no animals, but numerous flocks of birds gathered along the section-line roads, and I had to slow down to avoid a wonderful golden eagle along US 83 about 10 minutes earlier.
It felt good to finally stand at 45 North 100 West, halfway to the North Pole. As I say in the video, the weather felt just LIKE the North Pole, and I did not spend more than 20 minutes at the site. The 100th meridian obviously does not form a rigid wet east/semiarid west boundary here, but the confluence does lie near the Missouri River to the west. The Missouri River definitely divides a hillier, more arid, less densely populated Western South Dakota from the flatter, wetter, more densely populated Eastern South Dakota. The western side is dominated by ranching, while the eastern side's land use tends to be farming. The confluence therefore lies in the western portion of the more cultivated eastern side of the state.
I enjoyed the wide open spaces until my hands began to freeze while taking the photographs and movie. The uniform gray-white color of both the snow and the sky made taking good quality photographs difficult. The population density here is fairly low, about one farmhouse per square mile, but not as sparse than in the North Dakota confluence I had visited earlier in the day. The farmhouses were in good condition, however, and the closest one contained numerous new steel grain storage bins. I drove back to US 212, west to US 83, and south on US 83 to Pierre. The visit was the perfect start to the GIS and GPS workshop for the South Dakota elementary and secondary school teachers.