What is a Watershed?

Watershed Defined:

A watershed is an area of land that sheds water into creeks and rivers and drains to one geographic point such as a river, lake, bay, or the ocean. The highest ridges of the land form the boundaries of the watershed.

Rivers are fed by smaller finger streams called tributaries. Find the tributaries in the watershed diagram on the left.

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How Watersheds Work

Now look at the map of the Wolf Creek Watershed to the right. 

All the water that falls on the inside of the reddish line (the highest points in the watershed) will drain into the tributaries of Wolf Creek and flow south and downhill into the larger Bear River. 

All the rain that falls outside of the reddish line will flow into a different watershed- either the Yuba River to the north and west or the Bear River to the south and east. 

The Wolf Creek Watershed sits inside the Bear River Watershed and is part of it. 

In the map below the Wolf-Creek watershed you will find Wolf Creek (little green shape) inside the blue shape of the Bear River Watershed. 

Find the Bear River. Find the Yuba River. What river do they flow into? And what river does that flow into? And then? 

Everyone in the World lives in a watershed

Looking at this watershed map of the United States, do those lines remind you of any other parts of living things? Amazing similarities in living things, aren’t there? Now think of the earth as one giant living thing!  

 Can you find the Mississippi River Watershed? How about the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley Watershed? Can you guess where the Colorado River Watershed is? What other major watersheds can you name?

All those watersheds start out as tiny, little rivulets, that flow downhill into tributaries and tributaries into larger creeks, then from those creeks to rivers, small rivers to large, and then- the oceans!