Reader Participation Day: What National Park Place Names Should Be Changed?

Aztecs had nothing to do with the ruins at Aztec Ruins National Monument. NPS photo.

Among the many thousands of named places in America's National Park System are quite a few that could reasonably be given more appropriate names. Indeed, there are even some zingers among the unit designations of the 397 national parks.

Two examples of inappropriate place names in our National Park System leap to my mind almost unbidden. If the Ohio Congressional delegation can be made to sit still for it, Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve should be officially renamed Denali, which is what everybody in Alaska calls it. New Mexico's Aztec Ruins National Monument, a place in which no Aztec ever set foot, should be renamed to honor the Ancestral Puebloans.

OK, it's your turn. What renamings would you like to see?

By the way, this is not necessarily idle thinking. Place names in long-standing public use are seldom changed, but it does happen from time to time. The federal arbiter for such decisions, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, approves about 85% of the 250 naming proposals it receives in a typical year. Congress has renamed national parks from time to time too, as when Custer Battlefield National Monument was redesignated Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument back in 1991.


Mount Rainier, our fifth national park and the most impressive mountain in the lower forty-eight states, was named by Capt. George Vancouver of the Royal Navy to flatter a superior officer who never saw it and who fought against us in the American Revolution!

I call it Mount Snowier, but there is a very long history and many opinions:

Cape Hatteras should have the Recreation added back to the original name!

Who didn't think I was going to post this?

You came in right on time, samsad1. :o) I would have been absolutely shocked if we didn't get an OBX-themed thread going here.

Many of the buttes at Grand Canyon to convey the history of the ancient and present Native American peoples and significant Canyon Adventurers. Enough is already named for NPS personnel though be notable.

Wolf Trap NP for the Performing Arts should be renamed Wolf Trap NRA. Or it should just be returned to Wolf Trap Farm Park. Lots of NPS sites in the D.C. area don't have the word "national" in them.

Considering as how people have lived in the areas for nearly ten thousand years, and had other names for them... Rename Zion NP to Mukuntuweap NP. I would suggest something similar for Death Valley NP, but I do not know what the Timbisha call it. While at first glance this might seem to take away recognition for such places, they would benefit from a surge in domestic interest because of the publicity.

I remember comment on this site where the author wanted any site or place name in the NPS removed of any name that indicated a person or people. The rationale is that the NPS is about "natural things" and that naming such natural things after people is wrong.

When I mentioned that Yosemite was a name that referred to people, the answer was that it would have to change.

This is sort of a silly exercise. Mukuntuweap (really?). Too hard to pronounce. How about changing the name of Grand Tetons? It's really offensive to women. Yes, this is sarcasm.

Josiah Whitney was a complete ass. Rename Mt. Whitney after John Muir.
Now, because he already has a mountain right nearby named after him, we'll have to call it "Mt. Muir 2"

As you already mention Aztec Ruins, how about Montezumas Castle? For it has nothing to do with Montezuma.

Neither does drinking water in Mexico, but that does not stop us from using the name Montezuma!

Devils tower. How about something with a native name instead, as devils tower was named because of a mistake in translation, (or so I heard).

Oh for pete's sake. Leave it all alone!

I think something, somewhere should be named for Kurt. It wouldn't have to be anything major, just something to honor his dedication and hard work. Perhaps Repanshek Butte or even Repanshek Lane. Maybe a cliff in Canyonlands, a hill in Great Basin, or a tiny glacier on a barren mountain in Alaska. There must be a short hiking path, small mound, or historic cabin somewhere in our national parks that isn't yet named. Any man who vacations in Wheatland, Wyoming, deserves to be honored.

Personally I'd like to see some of the ridiculously long names reduced down to something that is easy enought to commit to memory. Maybe a limit of four words before the park designation.

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site

I mean - couldn't they just change the last one to President Clinton Birthplace NHS?

What an absolutely birdbrained idea.
Imagine the cost of changing park names. New entrance and road signs, printing broucures, changing websites, and on and on....
Oh yea, sorry, thats right, we are not supposed to care about how our tax dollars are wasted, right?
Ok if we really try, I think we can find something more productive to do with our limited national park dollars?

I second condensing the riduculously long names. Example: Grand Staircase-Escalante is redundant.

I agree with honoring Kurt, but I also agree with the comments about making the new names easy to spell and pronounce. Instead of Mt. Repanshek how about something like Lake Kurt?

How about everything gets changed to GPS coordinates and be done with it. We cant please everybody and with all the closures taking place again this year, I know we can use the money better, even if the costs are minimal.

There was a display in the park's old Jackson Visitor Center on the decision to name the park Mt Rainier NP. I don't know if it made the jump to the new visitor's center. I remember the name "Tahoma" was considered. That's probably the name I'd favor, despite the arguments put forth by the individual in the article you cite.

How about Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site. No one knows what that is and they drive right on by. How about Cowboy National Historic Site. That would bring them in.

I've read before (maybe here) about Colorado National Monument needing a new name, and I agree, it took me awhile to check it out, I always assumed it had something to do with the river corridor in that area, but it doesn't at all. Also, I don't see how Grand Staircase-Escalante is redundant. I thought those were two distinct areas.

Right on, Richard. The Timbisha are a bit miffed that their homeland is called "Death Valley", so I can only imagine what the Cheyenne and Lakota think of Devil's Tower being named as it is. From what I have read, the name came about because a government explorer received a bad translation from the original Lakota. "Bear Lodge" became "Bad Tower" somehow...

As much as I complain about wasted tax dollars... it has been several years since the Cuyahog a Valley National Rec Area became Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and while all the signs have been edited, few if any were changed because of the name change. They all have a sticker covering the bottom of the sign with the new name, the wooden ones clearly have a new piece of wood where the old wording was. All things considered they were pretty responsible with the money on the sign changes. In many cases the edited signs look terrible, but you can't always be both frugal and pretty.

Rename Big Cypress National Preserve to Dwarf Cypress National Preserve because “Big” refers to the size of the area, not the size of the trees. All but a few of the larger
cypress trees were logged out many years ago.

Haven't there been a lot of calls to strip Cuyohoga Valley NP of its national park designation? They might very well have saved a lot of money by just plastering over the signs then removing the labels. Or perhaps they saved the old pieces and can drop them back where they once were.

RE: Renaming Aztec NM to honor Ancestral Puebloans. The Anasazi were not the only ancestral puebloans. The Hohokam and the Mogollan were also ancestral puebloans. To classify only one of the three ancestral puebloan peoples as "Ancestral Puebloans" does an injustice to the other two.

I would love to see some parks change their names, but man I don't want to have to go get all new stamps for my passport book!

I think WHO got this right. The costs would be huge. Probably hudreds of thousands of dollars per name change. Or take the cheaper way out as they did in the case of Cuyahoga.
Not to mention the public meetings that would have to be held, the arguments and infighting. Never would you be able to come up with a name to please everybody.
Nor do the long names bother me. Most people will refer to them with a shortened "common" name anyway.
As to the "misnamed" parks like Montezumas Castle/Well or Aztec Ruins, it's true thes parks had nothing to do with Montezuma or Aztecs but the early explorers and settlers thought they did. Their misconceptions are part of the history too. As CJT points out, you'd have to rename Atec NM to "Anasazi, Hohokum and Mogollan NM" That's quite a mouthfull and, at that, you might be leaving out a culture or two we may not even know about yet.
And where will it all end. As I remeber my 4th grade history America was named after Amerigo Vespucci even though he was never here either. (I believe he did make it to Brazil but never North America).
I think Kurt's Canyon has a nice ring to it.