21-Sep-2002 -- Although I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer at the U.S. Geological Survey, have had several memorable confluence experiences this year, it bothered me that I had never visited the confluence closest to my residence, that of 40 North, 105 West. Two faithful confluence hunting partners, Emily Grace Kerski and Lilia Aubrey Kerski, and I drove north on Interstate 25 in Colorado to the Colorado Highway 7 exit. This area is part of the newest county in the United States, Broomfield County, carved out of portions of Adams, Boulder, Jefferson, and Weld Counties during 2001, making it the first new county in Colorado since 1913. This north end of the Denver Metropolitan Area is experiencing rapid population growth, evidenced in the high traffic volume on what not long ago were peaceful, section-line rural roads. Just 2.5 kilometers southeast of the confluence, a massive freeway interchange is about to connect Interstate Highway 25 with Highway E-470 and Denver International Airport, Aurora, and points southeast.
We drove west from Interstate Highway 25 along Highway 7 for approximately 1.5 kilometers, parked, and walked as the GPS directed, crossing the road toward the southwest. I tried to keep my eyes simultaneously on the GPS, the heavy traffic, and my two fine, small, companions.
As has been noted three years ago, this confluence is likely one of the easiest to find: Highway 7 is also known as Baseline Road, running atop 40 degrees north latitude from Boulder, Colorado, straight to the east for dozens of kilometers. This line, before Colorado Territory was born on 28 February 1861, divided Nebraska Territory to the north from Kansas Territory to the south. If Colorado had not become a state, citizens of Boulder today might well be Nebraska Cornhusker fans, while Denver's people might swear allegiance to the Kansas Jayhawks. These are not words that Colorado football fans enjoy hearing today. Colorado was admitted as the 38th state of the Union on 1 August 1876.
This is high Great Plains country, about one mile high, rapidly urbanizing, but still predominately alfalfa, wheat, and cornfields. The terrain is slightly rolling to flat, lying 24 kilometers east of the first foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Where uncultivated or not yet covered by housing subdivisions, the ground is covered in short prairie grasses. Just south of the confluence, storage buildings serve as reminders that underlying this area is the Wattenberg energy field, producing significant quantities of oil and natural gas since its discovery in 1970. This area also saw coal production largely from underground mines but also from a few strip mines until the 1950s. This last Saturday of summer on these high plains turned out to be perfect weather for confluence hunting, with just a hint of autumn in the breezy afternoon air.
Near the confluence, Baseline Road's southern shoulder lies approximately 10 meters north of what the GPS indicated to be 40 Degrees north latitude. A barbed-wire fence down a slight incline from the road runs parallel to the road approximately 4 meters north of the confluence. Hoping that I would not permanently scar the psyches of my young confluence companions, I told them to wait while I squeezed through the barbed wire fence for a quick visit to the actual site. The site was on a cultivated alfalfa field just south of a track made by farm vehicles, with grasses approximately 11 cm high. After spending about 45 minutes in the area, we set off to do a different kind of wayfinding in a corn maze at La Salle, Colorado.