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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.


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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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... 

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.

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