What’s In A Name?

Swiftcurrent Lake and Grinnell Point

Swiftcurrent Lake and Grinnell Point

“As modern western society has turned its back on the landscape, place names have become little more than convenient geographical tags.” (Sousa)

This quote is from a Spanish book about climate change and sadly I think it is a true statement.

Two years ago I embarked on a journey to learn the stories behind the names in Glacier National Park. There is a lot of history about Glacier that most people will never know. It is filed in the Glacier National Park archives and is just waiting to be rediscovered.

I learned a lot about this great place.

In fact, I learned so much that I could not help but want to share it with others. You see, I am a history buff and I have a bachelor’s degree in History that proves it. I used to think that I liked history of the Civil War and early 20th century, but that has changed.

Now I like the history of Glacier National Park. I guess I came about this because I have immersed myself into the names and places that so many of us love so much. There a tons of connections between places in the park and most people do not realize this. I only discovered this as I studied the material.

Natahki Lake and Alytn Peak

Natahki Lake and Alytn Peak

Here are a few things I learned about names in the Many Glacier Valley in the last two years.

  • There is a bridge on the way to Many Glacier called EMONON BRIDGE. This bridge over Windy Creek has a peculiar name. This clever name is given to a number of locations where no name is provided but the location needs to have a name. No name spelled backwards is “Emanon.” Perhaps No Name Lake in the Two Medicine Valley could be called Emanon Lake.
  • CRACKER LAKE was in 1897 after two prospectors left their tin of crackers hidden in some rocks near a mineral lead they were examining on “Blue Lake”. L. S. Emmons and Hank Norris started calling the lead “where we left the crackers” and soon the area came to be referred to as Cracker Lake.  By the way that guy Hank Norris has a mountain named for him as well.
  • Lake Josephine in Many Glacier

    Lake Josephine in Many Glacier

    Most folks know where Ptarmigan Tunnel is located but what about the PTARMIGAN WALL? The Ptarmigan Wall, above the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail, has also been called Castle Mountain, Pinnacle Wall, and even Amphitheater Wall in the past.  It is easy to understand why all of these descriptive names were used to for this beautiful place.

  • LAKE JOSEPHINE is one of Many Glacier’s treasures. Apparently, a number of people wanted to provide the name for this body of water that has views of the Grinnell Glacier Basin and the Garden Wall. The current name of Lake Josephine was given for the niece of the Stark brothers who held a mining claim on Grinnell Point. James Willard Schultz proposed that it be named Lone Woman Lake. The United States Geographic Board provides five additional names that have been associated with this body of water. Miners were referring to the lake as Altyn Lake as early as 1896 or 1897. It was also called Lake Lane, Lake Nancy, and even Lake Wintermute; all of these names are associated with the wife of the Secretary of the Interior, Franklin Knight Lane. His wife, Anne Wintermute Lane, preferred to have the lake named Lake Lane.
  • GRINNELL POINT is actually the end of a massive ridge that extends to the northeast from MOUNT GRINNELL. At one time the peak was called Stark’s Peak, for Parley and Scott Stark. The Stark brothers were local miners who, along with six others, had the claim for the JOSEPHINE MINE and numerous other claims. The Blackfeet called this peak Fisher Cap for their friend George Bird Grinnell.
Purchase Now

Purchase Now

If this kind of information is interesting to you I encourage you to purchase one or both of my books with the title What They Called It.

These books contain hundreds of names and photographs of Glacier National Park and can be purchased on our website.

Volume One features the names of places along Going-to-the-Sun Road and is currently available for purchase. Take this book with you if you are planning on driving over this national landmark. It has peaks and places labeled on panorama’s and numerous historical accounts about the names.

Volume Two

Volume Two

Volume Two is currently in production at the printer and is available for pre-order. This volume features stories about the names in Many Glacier, the Cut Bank Valley, the Two Medicine Valley, and the Marias Pass area. There is a lot of information in this book and some nice photographs as well. Pre-order and pay no shipping – use the discount code FREE SHIPPING when you check out.

1. Sousa, A. Garcia-Murillo, P., Sahin, S., Morales, J., & Garcia-Barron, L. Wetland place names as indicators of recent climate change in SW Spain (Donana Natural Park). Climatic Change 100, 525-557 (2010).