Placenames in Mt. Rainier NP
List of placenames (PDF)
MPG V2.8, January 2013


As this country grew and more land out west became territories and then as states, the federal government slowly ran into a problem, the inconsistency of the names of places, in the language, usage and spelling, from the smallest, such as a Post Office, to a town or physical feature.

This became worse across agencies within the federal government and with state and local governments. In the east and Gulf coast the Department of the Navy, then charged with producing hydrographic and marine charts and maps of the coast, bays and harbors, was having problems with the inconsistencies of names of the features for the maps.

In 1890 people in the Department of the Navy decided to establish a practice for the uniform use and spelling of names for government maps, charts and publications. The discussion spread over the next few months to include other federal agencies and a few non-government organizations. This was formalized with a board and an initial set of standards for publications.

This work was followed by a series of meetings with other federal agencies to produce a formal list of board members and rules for reviewing placenames where conflicts in usage and spelling existing. No review was made for names where there was no inconsistently between the federal agencies and the state and local government agencies with the new standards and principles for placenames.

Board on Geographic Names

The new board was officially established by President Benjamin Harrison with an Excutive Order on September 4, 1890 with the Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The BGN produced their first report in February 1892 with the short history to that point, board members, the approved standards and the first list of placenames approved for consistent usage and spelling.

Once the BGN was working, they produced their second report in February 1900 covering the first ten years (1890-1899) and established the policy was established that all new names would also be reviewed and approved by the Board to ensure consistency across federal agencies. This decision wasn't fully functional until state-level boards were established and working.

Due to the size of the work of reviewing all new names and conflicts with the usage or spelling of names, the BGN empowered state boards or commissions on geographic names to conduct the initial evaluation and approval of all revisions or new names for maps and publications which would be reviewed by the BGN at routine meeting for the for official use by state and federal agencies.

This practice continues today as all states have boards or commissions for people to apply for names of places in their state for review, and if approved, to be forwarded to the national BGN. In 2010 the Washington State Legislature dropped funding for the Washington State Board on Geographic Names. The state BGN was restored in the 2012 budget as the State Committee on Geographic Names under the Department of Natural Resources.

It should be noted that coordination and adherence to the BGN's standards and names for places which are not under state or federal jurisdiction is voluntary, and many local governments (city, county, etc.) often have additional or different names for places in their jurisdiction included with maps and publications.

In addition the standards do not apply to individuals or organizations of any legal stature, as is the case with the different published guides for Mt. Rainier NP as well many Websites for the different features in Mt. Rainier NP, such as waterfalls and lakes where many more have names not officially approved and in use with state or federal maps and publications or with some commercial maps, eg. Green Trails.

History and Names

In the first report of the Board on Geographic Names, Mount Rainier was officially adopted as the name of the mountain which later bore its name as a Forest Reserve and the nation's fifth National Park (NP). By 1900 it was not known how many places had names in the NP since only 4 new names were reviewed by the BGN during the decade, there wasn't a compilation of all the names in pre-NP area and the first official map wasn't produced until 1915.

The name of Mount Rainier

While many in Washington State approved the name of Mount Rainier, some did not, and over the next few decades, efforts were made to revise the name to Mount Tacoma, a variation of the original indian name for the mountain. The first effort in 1917 failed when the BGN declined to review the application.

A second effort in 1921 also failed, so the effort moved to Congress where a bill was introduced to officially change the name. The bill didn't pass. A third attempt before the BGN failed in 1925 and the effort officially ended in 1932 when the BGN officially adopted Mount Rainier National Park as the name of the NP.

Placenames and the BGN

The first topographic map of Mt. Rainier NP, published by the US Geological Survey in 1915, had 334 placenames, which is more than the number of places with names in the NP recognized by the BGN, only 113 of the 124 recognized names at the time of the map.

In the 1930's the NP was expanded to the divide of the Cascade Mountains and in the southeast for the Backbone Ridge and a new topographic map was released by the USGS in 1935 with another 217 names which were approved, but only 200 were included on the map.

Between the 1935 and 1971 maps of the NP, 31 names were approved by the BGN, but only 8 of those were original names from the 1915 map. Another 28 names were approved between 1971 and 2006, but again only 5 were from the original 1915 map.

The BGN's records show many names were included into the registry with "No Date" for approval but one date for inclusion in the BGN database, which means the names were simply included without review and approval which included the last 8 names from the original 1915 map.

Placenames and NP Maps

The 1915 topographic map fo the NP used placenames which were in general or common use by local people, state and local agencies, and federal agencies, and those few names approved by the BGN up to the date of the production date of the map. Many of those names date back to the establishment of the area in and around Mt. Rainier using descriptive names, in honor of people, or variations of Indian names.

The 1935 map was produced for the expansion of the NP on the east to the Cascade Mountain divide, to the south and southeast for the inclusion of the Ohanapecosh area and some minor additions along the western half of the NP. This increased the number of placenames along with the addition of new placenames in the NP between 1915 and 1935.

The 1971 NP map was produced for additional lands added to the NP on the southeast and other areas around the boundary of the NP. The map was produced with and followed by the complete 7 1/2 minute series of topopgraphic maps of the NP. Since then 8 of the 15 maps in the series have been updated (1987-2000) for changes in the NP and the addition of placenames approved by the BGN.

Between 2010 and 2015 the USGS updated all the 7 1/2 minute maps for the State of Washington which included the 15 in the series covering Mt. Rainier. The new map were produced in multi-layer PDF format to present the most complete view of the NP with the maps. In addition they put all the available historical maps on-line, which you can view and download the new and historical maps here.

Changed or Lost Names

Only a handful of placenames on the 1915 map were not carried forward in later maps and publications, some due to history, places no longer existing, new names or spellings, or just dropped because the name doesn't apply anymore. Some of the names, however, are noteworthy.

Mowich Lake was originally called Crater Lake when the first travellers in the area noted the resemblance to a volcanic lake. It was approved by the BGN to Mowich Lake in January 1919. Starbo Camp was a mining camp in the upper White River basin which was removed in the early years under the NPS. Most of the rest of the old names were changed for spelling, dropped from use, or no longer had any meaning.

Windy Knoll

One of those names lost to history is Windy Knoll, a small hill (compared to the surrounding mountains), 46 ° 57' 30.5" N, 121 ° 45' 03.4" W, 6,070 feet elevation, southeast of the southern end of Independence Ridge and almost due north of Windy Gap on the north side of the northern loop of the Wonderland Trail.

Windy Knoll, see location map (PDF) and topo map (PDF), was a fire lookout camp during the 1930's depression era with a primitive structure and tent camp as a seasonal (temporary) fire lookout for the immediate area, see history of the lookouts in the NP. It was abandoned around the start of the Second World War.

The name was never proposed to the BGN and as such was never included on any map of the NP, including the 1935 USGS topographic map of the NP as only officially recognized names are allowed on USGS maps. The name persisted into the 1960's in hiking guides, Ira Spring and Harvey Manning's 1969 "50 Hikes in Mt. Rainier NP", but was not included in subsequent editions since it wasn't on maps to reference with the guide.

In time there may be an effort to get the name for this feature with its unique history officially proposed for historical value, but even if approved by the BGN won't appear on maps until a new USGS NP or the 7 1/2 minute series quadrant topographic maps are updated and published or a new NPS map is released.

Placenames in Washington

The State of Washington didn't establish its own BGN until 1983, putting the work on the national BGN, and aside from two years (2010-2012), it's been doing the work as the initial board to review new names or correct old one. The current system uses a committee for the initial review and recommendation for the final state approval to the BGN, see resources below.

Personal Notes

While I tabulated the list and history of placenames on 1915 map, I have not done the same with the 1935 and 1971 maps, much in part because there are 692 names, over double from the 1915 map, and tracking the differences over the two later maps is real work and not in the schedule for now.

That said, I have consolidated the complete list of placenames for Mt. Rainier NP into several formats, PDF file, Apple iWorks Numbers file, and CSV file. No Microsoft Excel file format was produced as iWorks removed information from the output file. You can use the CSV file to import into Excel.


There currently are no publications inclusive of the placesnames in Mt. Rainier NP, only Websites listed below.

Please use the contact link to send e-mail.

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WSR V2.8, January 2013