Louisville WaterWorks Museum Virtual Activities

Louisville WaterWorks Museum Virtual Activities - What is a Watershed?

Welcome to our new series Louisville Water Works! Each week we will post a new video with a lesson and an at-home challenge. We will also share directions for challenges and activities that relate to each topic.

Week 9: What's a Watershed?

Watersheds can be very big and very small at the same time.  It all depends on how you look at it.  But what is a watershed and how are they made?

A watershed, also known as a drainage basin, is an area of land that has many small water sources that drain into a large body of water. In Louisville, the Ohio River receives water from lots of other small sources. 

Topography — the hills, valleys, and other features that define the landscape — determine the boundaries of a watersheds  The water in that area flows down into a river or stream.  The whole area is called a watershed.

Watersheds can be small, Jefferson County has at least 11 different ones. Those watersheds then flow into the Ohio River. The Ohio River watershed is 250,000 square miles.  That’s a lot of water.  But it is only one of many in the United States. There are 78 major watersheds in the lower 48 states. These combine into only a few major watersheds that surround the United States.

What makes the water flow one way verses another? Look at the map below: those lines represent different continental divides. The redline is the Rocky Mountains and the yellow line is the Appalachian Mountains.

All the water on the left side of the red line flows into the Pacific Ocean.  All the water between the red and yellow line flow into the Gulf of Mexico.  And all the water to the right of the yellow line flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Challenge: Create a watershed
Everyone lives, works and plays on land that drains to a body of water. Create your own watershed to see how water drains and flows from one source to another.

-A piece of paper                         
-Water-based marker or pen     
-Spray bottle                                                

1. Crumple up the piece of paper
2. Smooth the paper back out most of the way. It should still be a bit crumpled, show small ridges (high points) and valleys (low points)
3. Use the marker or pen to draw color along the ridgelines of the paper
4. Use the spray bottle to create a “rainstorm” over your land. You will want to create gentle sprays of mist.
5. Observe what happens after every misting
6. As your “rainfall” accumulates, observe the pathways where the excess “rainfall” travels

Activity: Writing Prompt
How many states can you name on the map of the United States above?  Which of those states make up the Ohio River Watershed?

Activity: Word Search

All the words are spelled left to right or up and down.  None are diagonal or backwards.

Share It!

Share your completed challenges and activities with us. Tag us @LouWaterTowerPark and use the hashtag #LouisvilleWaterWorks

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