University of Idaho professor Lalia Boone’s 1988 classic “Idaho Place Names” is an indispensable reference work for anyone interested in Idaho history. The names in my own well-worn copy add richness and color to my research and understanding.
Names attached to Idaho places often describe physical features of the landscape, pioneers who settled there, events that happened there, or native wild animals encountered there. We have, for example, Bear Creeks in Adams and Clearwater counties, a Black Bear Creek and a Bad Bear Creek in Boise County, a Big Bear Creek in Latah County, a Bruin Creek in Clearwater County, and a Silvertip Creek (named for the Grizzly Bear) and a Three Bear Creek in Latah County. There is also a Cub Creek, a Cub Lake and a Cub River.
Other predators whose names appear on the map of Idaho are Bobcat Creek, Cougar Creek, Coyote Creek, Coyote Gulch, Fox Butte, Fox Creek, Lionhead and Lionshead (named for their fancied shapes), Tiger Gulch (named for the Tiger mine), Wildcat Creek, Wolf Creek, Wolf Canyon Creek, Wolf Fang Peak, Wolf Mountain and Wolverine Canyon.
The deer family is represented with Big Buck, Blacktail, two Deer Creeks, Deer Park Creek, Deer Parks and Doe Creek. Elk, Elk City, Elk Flat, Elk Peak, Elk River, Elk Summit, Elkhorn Creek, two Elkhorn Peaks, Bull Elk Creek and an Elkhorn Gulch. We also have a Fawn Creek, a Moose Creek, Caribou City, Caribou County and Caribou Creek. Animals of the high mountain are remembered with Bighorn Crags, Cony Peak, Goat Creek, Goat Lake, Goat Mountain and misnamed non-native Ibex Peak.
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Bison that once roamed Idaho in vast numbers are memorialized with Buffalo Creek, Buffalo Hump, Buffalo River and Buffalo Skull Lake.
In addition to a Donkey Creek we have two Jackass Creeks, a Burro Creek, a Mule Creek, two Pony Creeks, Pony Mountain and these features named for horses: Horse Creek, Horse Camp Creek, Horse Creek Butte, Horse Creek Pass, Horse Creek Hot Springs, two Horse Heavens and Horse Prairie Mountain. Dead horses are memorialized with Dead Horse Cave, Deadhorse Creek, Deadhorse Gulch and Deadhorse Mountain. Related to these are Horse Mint Spring, two Horseshoe Bends, a Horseshoe Creek and a Horsefly Gulch.
Other insects that found their way onto the map of Idaho are Bug Creek, Bugtown, Gnat Creek, Grasshopper Creek, Hornet Creek, Mosquito Creek, Shoo Fly Creek, Woodtick Creek, Yellowjacket Creek, Yellowjacket Lake and Yellowjacket Mountain.
The names of native wild birds add another dimension to the map of Idaho, as do some domestic ones: Bluejay Canyon, Chicken Creek, four Crane Creeks, Crane, Curlew Valley, Eagle, Eagle Bar, Eagle Creek, Eagle Island, Eagle Point, Eagle Rock, Foolhen Creek, Grouse, Grouse Creek, Gull Island, three Loon Creeks, Lower Goose Lake, Magpie Canyon, Mallard Peak, Owl Creek, Parrot Creek, two Partrige Creeks, Pigeon Hollow, Redbird Mountain, Rooster Comb Butte, Sage Hen Creek, Sage Hen Gulch, Swan Basin, Swan Falls, two Swan Lakes, Swan Peak, Swan Point, Swan Valley, Turkey Head Butte, White Bird, White Bird Creek and White Owl Butte.
Lalia Boone’s classic work tells us that Idaho men named places for their wives and daughters when they had the chance. Here are examples: Ada County, Adelaide, Addie, Agatha, Alta, Amelia Bay, Anna Lukes Meadow, Aunt Mollys Spring, Berenice, Bertha Rock, Bertha Hill, Carrie Creek, Catherine Creek, Dorion Peak, Doris Butte, Edna Creek, Edna Lake, Elizabeth Lake, Florence Lake, Grace, Hazel, Isabella Creek, Jeanne Creek, Joan Creek, Juliaetta (named by a father for daughters Julia and Etta), Kathryn Lake, Letha, Lorene, Louise Creek, Mount Margaret, Marys Creek, Marysville, Melba, Mollies Gulch, Pauline, Pearl Island, Rebecca, Rhoda Creek, Rose Creek, Sacajawea Hot Springs, Sarilda, Tolo Lake, and Viola. Della Basin and Long Liz Creek are named for prostitutes.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.