10. Names

ON THE FACE of the Plateau Province, as the region slowly emerged into definition, certain people had left names,1 and others later had kept or altered them as whim, misunderstanding, and mispronunciation directed. Some of the names were as old as the tribes the white men encountered there, Paiute and Hopi and Navajo. Some were echoes of the florid piety of the Spaniards who made the entradas in search of souls or gold, or the New Mexicans who drove mules to California from Santa Fe and Taos. Thus there was in the heart of the plateau country a Virgin River, and on it a town La Verkin whose name the inhabitants themselves did not understand,2 and there were the La Sal and Abajo Mountains, and the great river named for its red muddy water the Colorado, and El Vado de los Padres and the San Rafael, and names like Escalante and Spanish Fork that later men gave in memory of the Spaniards’ passing.

Covering these was another layer, itself half effaced because never written down on maps, but sometimes persistent in the plateaus and even more in the beaver-heaven Uintas and Wasatch. The Seedskeedee-agie of the fur brigades had become the Green,3 and Jedediah Smith’s attempt to call the Virgin the Adams River had not succeeded, but Black’s Fork and Ham’s Fork and the Duchesne, Ashley Creek and Brown’s Hole, the Provo and the Ogden and the Malad, recalled that time.

And on top of those was still another layer, complicated by the fact that the Mormons who gave these labels were both frontier farmers and zealots. In the nomenclature of Mormondom, Pleasant Valley and Richfield and Bountiful alternate with St. Joseph, St. Thomas, and St. George, who are no saints in the Catholic calendar but pioneer leaders of colonies, Latter-day Saints. The great men of Zion are on the map in Brigham City and Heber City and Knightsville, and between and among these are scattered those dense but hollow names, smooth outside with use, packed with associations like internal crystals, that come from the Bible or the Book of Mormon — names that are like Lehi and Manti and Hebron, Nephi and Moroni and Moab.

These are not all. Every exploration that traversed this country left names behind it, either those it gave or those given later in its memory. Frémont’s name rests on a peak in the Wind Rivers, an island in Great Salt Lake, a town in Wayne County, Utah, a river heading in the Fish Lake Plateau. Lieutenant Gunnison has been given a river in western Colorado, a butte near where he crossed the Green, and a town in the Sevier Valley close to where he and seven of his party died at the hands of the Páhvant Utes. Stansbury, Simpson, Ives, Beckwith, Berthoud, are all there, either in the Plateau Province or on its borders. The highest peak in the Uintas and in Utah bears Clarence King’s name. On other Uinta peaks are the names of Marsh, Emmons, and Hayden. All the survey parties down to the most recent have found something upon which they could confer the precision of named identity. Major Powell, because he was the first into many parts of the province and because he or his men worked in it for two decades, left more names than any but the Mormon settlers. Not only the map itself but dozens of its labels are his or his parties’ doing.

His own name he did not give to anything — few explorers are that bald — but others did it for him: to a peak in the Colorado Rockies, to a national forest, to a whistle stop on the Santa Fe east of Needles, to the valley near Meeker where he wintered in 1868-69, to an island plateau in the Grand Canyon. But if he refused to aggrandize himself, Powell showed just as little inclination to pay off obligations by naming. Of all the names he suggested, only three honor people in any way his patrons. These are Mounts Trumbull and Logan on the Uinkaret, named for two Illinois senators, and the Henry Mountains, named for Professor Henry of the Smithsonian. It does not seem to have been Powell who made the mistake of naming two peaks on the Tushar, near Beaver, Utah, Mount Belknap and Mount Delano after two of Grant’s most venal cabinet members. More likely it was Thompson or Dutton, neither of whom could have had any axe to grind. Powell named Gunnison Butte after his exploring predecessor, and someone, probably Gilbert or Dutton, honored Hilgard of the Naval Observatory with a peak between the Fish Lake and Wasatch Plateaus. Another nearby was named for Archibald Marvine, early dead, who had been Gilbert’s geological companion on the Wheeler Survey.

Powell also took pains to honor his immediate associates and assistants. Every member of the Powell Survey except Walter Graves and Walter Powell seems to have been immortalized in some topographical feature of the High Plateaus or the Grand Canyon. Originally Powell named Navajo Mountain for the Howlands, but the name did not stick; the Howlands and Dunn are both commemorated instead in buttes in the Grand Canyon. Billy Hawkins gets both a butte in the Grand Canyon and a peak at the head of Beaver Dam Creek, west of St. George. Clem Powell, Andy Hattan, and Jack Hillers all have buttes, and Hillers in addition has his name attached to one of the peaks in the Henrys. Frank Bishop got a creek in the Uintas. Points in the Kaibab division of the Grand Canyon were named for Bradley, Jones, Sumner, Willie Johnson, Dutton, and Thompson. Dutton’s name also rests on a Kaibab spring and a side canyon, as well as a peak on the Paunságunt Plateau. Thomas Moran got Moran Point, a mere tidbit beside the noble peak in the Tetons named for him earlier by Hayden. James Pilling, Powell’s secretary, has a cascade in Kanab Canyon and “Uncle Jim Point” in the Grand Canyon. The two Powell Survey women remain on the map too, Emma Powell as Mount Emma on the Uinkaret and Nellie Thompson as Mount Ellen in the Henrys. Even Professor Harvey DeMotte of Illinois Wesleyan, who worked in the area only part of the summer of 1872, left his name on DeMotte Park in the Kaibab. Gilbert named the smallest of the Henry Mountains for Holmes, who had earlier acquired a peak in the Gallatin range in Montana. Gilbert seems not to be represented in the plateau country proper, but he appears on a mountain in the Uintas. And the Smithsonian Institution, whose support was indispensable to Powell for many years, received its thanks when Dutton called a peculiarly perfect cameo outlier of the Vermilion Cliffs Smithsonian Butte.

Illinois saved the Union during the war, it is said, by producing Lincoln and Grant. It dominated the Union for some years after the war, partly because Grant had a habit of appointing cronies and relatives to high places. One of the more ironic minor evidences of Illinois dominance in those years is the cluster of Illinois names that the Powell Survey fixed irremovably to the map of Utah, a state inhabited by Mormons whom the citizens of Illinois had in 1846 driven brutally into the wilderness.

Men, big or little, Illini or otherwise, provided only one of many sources of map names. Most of the modes and fashions of naming discussed by George R. Stewart in his admirable Names on the Land are present. Powell’s own taste ran strongly to the descriptive. All down the length of the river from Green River to the Virgin he applied names to the reaches of the canyon and to notable features of the topography. The second expedition named a good many things that the first had missed, and altered some that the first had given (Craggy Canyon became Split Mountain Canyon, Coal Canyon became Gray Canyon) but the character of the naming remained consistent. Flaming Gorge, Horseshoe Canyon, Island Park, Desolation Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Lava Falls, and many more of Powell’s names are purely descriptive. So, but with a special twist, are names such as Dirty Devil and Bright Angel, the first given on the spur of the moment from a remark of one of the men, the other contrived later to make a contrast.

All the names that Powell gave to major canyons on Green and Colorado have stuck. He named Marble Canyon from the polished limestone of its walls, and he restored to the Grand Canyon its enduring name, turning away from Ives’ choice of “Big Canyon.” Occasionally, as at Ashley Falls, where he found Ashley’s name painted on a rock, and at Gunnison’s Butte, where he recognized historical tracks, he named something for a predecessor. Sometimes, as at Disaster Falls, he commemorated an event. Once, and that at the suggestion of Andy Hall, he gave a name for a literary allusion — the name “Lodore” that so disgusted Jack Sumner as un-American. Once also, deferring to Steward, he bowed to the diabolism common in our placenames, and called a nasty stretch of the Green “Hell’s Half Mile.”

In his way, Powell was one of our better namers. He had a flair for the picturesque, and his descriptive terms are sometimes extremely apt, as in Split Mountain Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and the Vermilion Cliffs. He did not plaster politicians across the map, he had no weakness for the cute. Some notion of propriety preserved him from extravagance except in the happy contrast of Dirty Devil and Bright Angel. One gathers that he expected the names he put down to last, unlike Gilbert, whose preface to the Henry Mountains facetiously apologizes to Howell, Steward, Newberry, Marvine, Peale, Holmes, Geikie, Jukes, Scrope, and Dana for putting their names on insignificant details. The affront will never, he says, “be repeated by the future denizens of the region. The herders who build their hut at the base of the Newberry Arch are sure to call it ‘the Cedar Knoll’; the Jukes Butte will be dubbed ‘Pilot Knob,’ and the Scrope, ‘Rocky Point.’ ”4 Gilbert was not entirely wrong. Even the beautifully named Aquarius Plateau is known locally as Boulder Mountain, the Tushar is called Beaver Mountain, and the Páhvant Sigurd Mountain.

Usage is freakish. Sometimes local names last, sometimes those of the explorer and surveyor, sometimes both. Powell’s have shown a strong tendency to survive, and so, though they have been subjected to acid debate, have Dutton’s.5

Down the vast 217-mile avenue of the Grand Canyon, that “mountain-range-in-a-ditch” any of whose subordinate buttes is larger than the mass of any mountain east of the Rockies, Dutton left a legacy of names. The honoring of Survey members took care of a good many features, and the descriptive habit which has dotted our western parks with Inspiration Points took care of some more. The tourist who slakes his thirst at Hidden Spring, or walks out for the view to Cape Royal, Cape Final, or Point Sublime, is orienting himself by names that Dutton put there. But the major features of the canyon, the great amphitheaters and side gorges and buttes, demanded something extra.

He might have used Indian names. But there were no existing Indian names for many of the things needing labels, and Dutton disliked Indian names anyway. He appears never to have learned Paiute, and he did not yield to the arguments of Fred Dellenbaugh that he make the Indians his source.6The map shows plenty of Indian names, and has since the very first sheets that Thompson produced — Shinumo, Kwagunt, Kaibab, Paria, Kanab, Uinkaret, Shivwits — but these were adopted earlier by the Mormons or by Powell. Dutton turned away from adding more, and began the series of oriental and architectural names that since the eighties have persisted and even spread.

The fixed binoculars at the lookout points will, for a dime, bring you close up to the Hindoo Amphitheater, the Ottoman Amphitheater, Vishnu’s Temple, Shiva’s Temple, the Temples of Isis and Osiris, the Transept, the Cloisters. They will show you the Tower of Set, named by Moran on Dutton’s example, and Vulcan’s Throne down on the Toroweap, and Wotan’s Throne and Krishna Shrine and Rama Shrine. Besides the ones given in Dutton’s time there is a host of Apollo Temples, Venus Temples, Jupiter Temples — and fading badly as inspiration strains itself, King Arthur Castle and Guenevere Castle and Holy Grail Temple. Dutton named East Temple and West Temple in Zion, where a religious flavor was inevitable both because of the architecture of the canyon and because of the character of the Mormon settlers. The religious and architectural parallel was compulsive in the Grand Canyon too, for the similarity of the buttes to pagodas with widening eaves, to temples “every inch carved,” to the angular, massive, intricately decorated buildings of Asia is extraordinarily impressive. Perhaps the true objection is not to the original series, which was discriminating, but to later elab orations, which have spread the contagion over Bryce, Zion, Cedar Breaks, and the rest of the canyon country. Yet the architectural names are all but inevitable; every explorer was compelled to them; every part of the Plateau Province bears them. Even the pioneers feeling their way down the Waterpocket Fold looked at the domes of white sandstone crowning the red cliffs and they named one red butte Cathedral Rock and the ridge itself the Capitol Reef from its resemblance to the dome of the Capitol in Washington.

Look at Vishnu’s Temple. If you don’t call it something like Vishnu’s Temple what would you call it? Kwagunt Peak? Ivanpah Butte? The Indians had no architecture to match the imaginative-ness of their religion or the majesty of these forms. Thunder Hogan would hardly do. You might take some elaborate descriptive phrase such as the Utes used for the country around the junction of Grand and Green, and try to cram “Toom-pin-wu-near-tu-weap” on your map. Or you might seize upon some translation and call your butte “Standing Rock.” But you would not have helped yourself much. Ute and Paiute do not strike us as especially euphonious tongues. Paiute mythical heroes are called S6-kus Wai-un-nats, or something worse; their chiefs labor under names like Chuarruumpeak or Nara guts ; some native placenames are said to be too obscene for translation onto any polite map.7

Perhaps Dutton did as well as another might have. Bizarre topography may justify exotic or even eccentric names. The “temple” habit that spread to Bryce repeats the Isis and Osiris motif, and Bryce throws in to boot a Wall Street, a Silent City, a Cathedral. In places it goes cute, as in Peekaboo Canyon. But what should one do for names in a geological funhouse? In the Grand Canyon, at least, Dutton’s names are like his superlatives of description — admissible because they cannot be avoided.

Later surveys of the river have had less unnamed country to work with and less imagination to turn loose. Since 1923 the fashion has been strictly practical. As plans for reclamation dams have crept down the canyons, surveyors’ instead of explorers’ language has come with them. Now on the detailed maps you will find every previously unnamed gulch and wash labeled for its distance from the head of the survey, which for the Grand Canyon division was Lee’s Ferry.

Now they are Six Mile Wash and One Hundred and Thirty Mile Canyon and Two Hundred Mile Rapid. At their very worst, Powell and Dutton did not name by transit or plane table or chain. Bright Angel Creek and. Sockdolager Rapid, or for that matter Shiva’s Temple and the Ottoman Amphitheater, seem livelier than Hundred and Ten Mile Point or 38° 40’ Spring.

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