06-Sep-2004 -- The boundaries of many western states in the USA were drawn along latitude and longitude lines during the mid to late 1800s. Colorado's boundaries were delineated along 102 and 109 West longitude, and along 37 and 41 North Latitude. On a beautiful late summer day, I, together with my favorite confluence seekers, set out to find a confluence along the northern boundary of Colorado.
We drove south from Sidney, Nebraska on State Highway 19, stopping at the Colorado border to take photographs. We then drove east along a dirt section line road running just 30 meters parallel to and north of the state line. These section line roads exist on every mile for most of the central and some of the western USA. I expected the road to be impassable after a short distance, but it kept going, and so did we. We passed a few untended plows and tractors, as this was high plains wheat, sunflowers, alfalfa, and corn country. A third of Colorado is the prairie biome, part of the Great Plains. Lilia spotted one farmer on our odyssey, and we all saw two entelope escaping from Colorado into Nebraska about 900 meters west of the confluence. The road ended conveniently along our planned north-south road, which we took to the south. The road jogged slightly to the east before turning due south again, a sure sign that we had passed into Colorado. The surveyed section lines are often not aligned between states. However, it was amazing how close (30m) the confluence at 41 North was to the intended 41 North at the state line, surveyed 150 years ago. Therefore, the confluence is just barely inside Colorado. When Emily indicated that the confluence was east of our location, we stopped our vehicle and clambered out into the sun.
We walked east-northeast through a plowed field that was now bare earth, arriving at the confluence at 2:10pm local time. The temperature was 26 C (83 F) under direct sun with barely a few clouds in the sky. The confluence lies on flat ground in the center of a shallow depression about 200 meters wide (N-S) by a few kilometers long (E-W). Therefore, our longest vistas were to the east and west. We could see one farmhouse to the east, and the few trees planted near it were the only ones visible on the prairie.
Except for the antelope, we saw no animals. As this was farmland and apparently not used for grazing, we encountered no fences. Although the land is mostly flat, we were near the subtle but important drainage divide between the North Platte River (in Nebraska) and the South Platte River (in Colorado). To the east of us, these two rivers join to form the Platte, which flows into the Missouri, and on to the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
I reflected on the difference between this confluence and the visit I made in February to the confluence 1 degree east of this one. As a ground blizzard occurred during the February visit, it is amazing to consider the weather extremes experienced by residents here on the high plains. After spending a few minutes at the site, enjoying the wide open Great Plains, we walked back to the vehicle. We drove south along the section-line road to a more major east-west road that took us west to the town of Peetz. Peetz was small, reflecting the serious rural depopulation that this region has experienced over the past 60 years. Peetz is now the center of a large wind farm facility that generates electricity. We drove south along Colorado State Highway 113, dropping into the South Platte River valley, and headed back to Denver. An excellent afternoon on the Great Plains!