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A Legacy on the LANDSCAPE Mazamas influence on Pacific Northwest place names

Place names are integral to our knowledge and understanding of Mazama history. The nomenclature of Pacific Northwest geographic features, more often than not goes unrecognized and is often forgotten. Unknown to most, the Mazamas and its members have influenced the names of many places around the Northwest. The story begins, as many recountings of Mazama history does, with our founder William Gladstone Steel.

William Steel, Mt. Hood, & Mt. Mazama

William Gladstone Steel

Besides founding the Mazamas and helping to establish Crater Lake National Park, the nomenclature of place names fascinated Steel. He worked for many years to compile a catalog of over 40,000 place names. It seems only fitting then that Steel Cliff on Mt. Hood honors him. Steel is also responsible for the naming of Mt. Hood's Illumination Rock and Mississippi Head.

Illumination on the Summit of Mount Hood, July 4, 1887

In 1887 he organized and led a party that carried 100 pounds of red fire up to the mountain’s top and set it alight as part of that year’s July 4 celebration. Anyone who could see the mountain that night could see the fire atop Illumination Rock. In 1905 Steel named Mississippi Head for that state's delegation to the National Editorial Association, who held their annual convention in Portland that year.

All this pales in the satisfaction Steel must have felt when, in 1896, the ancient mountain whose caldera now holds Crater Lake was named Mt. Mazama in honor of the organization he founded. Steel loved Crater Lake and worked for seventeen years to have the area declared a National Park. He later served as the park’s second superintendent.

William Steel on the rim of Crater Lake, 1925

Columbia River Gorge

In 1914 the State Highway Commission asked Mazamas to recommend names for some of the places along the Columbia River Highway. The council sanctioned a committee to study the issue and make recommendations. In 1915 the committee submitted their proposals to the Mazamas and the Highway Commission. The commission accepted the majority of the recommendations.

Lesser waterfalls along the Columbia, Mazama Annual 1916.

We know them today as Metlako Falls, Munra Point, Ruckel Creek, Tumult Creek, Wahclella Falls, Wahe Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Wuana Point, Elowah Falls, and Yeon Mountain. Don Onthank, a long-time member known to many as Mr. Mazama, gave the name to Bruin Mountain and the Rock of Ages Trail, both in the Gorge. And for a short while, there existed a Mazama Mystery Trail in the Gorge in the vicinity of Saint Peter's Dome.

Mts Adams, Baker, and Rainier

The Mazamas influence extends beyond Hood and the Gorge. Mazama and northwest mountaineer Claude E. Rusk is the namesake of Rusk Glacier on Mt. Adams. On Mt. Baker, the Mazama Dome honors the organization, while the Mazamas named Roosevelt Glacier in 1906 for U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. The Mazamas is the namesake for the Mazama Glaciers on both Adams and Baker.

USGS file cards denoting Mazama Glacier on Mt. Baker and Mazama Ridge on Mt. Rainier.

The Mazamas petitioned in 1948 to have the Mazama Glacier on Mt. Adams renamed to honor five-time Mazama President Charles Sholes, but the request was denied. Mazama founding member Fay Fuller is the source for Fay Peak, on the slopes of Mt. Rainier.

Fay Fuller, namesake of Fay Peak on Mt. Rainier.

Forest Park

Aerial View - Mazama Forest, Mazama Annual 1945

Closer to home, the Mazamas advocated for the creation of Forest Park. For their efforts, the city allowed for the establishment of the Mazama Forest inside the park. Now all but forgotten, this area was overseen by the Mazamas. Besides planting thousands of trees, the Mazamas sourced various types of rhododendrons from around the region and transplanted them. The Hardesty Trail leading to the forest honors Mazama President William Hardesty.

Left: Forest Park's Hardesty Trail; Right: William P. Hardesty ca 1944.

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens, ca 1960

Until the summer of 1967, all the glaciers on St. Helens were nameless. In May of 1966, Keith Gehr, a frequent Mazama climb leader and then head of the Mazama Outing Committee, set out to rectify the situation. Over three months Keith worked the phones and wrote countless letters to determine why there were no given names. Keith's search turned up an ally when he contacted Dr. Mark Meier, a glaciologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). After getting assurances from the USGS that the 11 permanent ice bodies on the mountain were, in fact, actual glaciers, Keith and Mark set about researching and submitting names for them.

Keith wrote, "After much research in the Mazama library on the early history of the Mt. St. Helens area, particularly as it is related to climbing, a set of names was proposed. Differences of opinion between the Mazamas, Forest Service, and Geological Survey were quickly resolved in across-the-table meetings."

The eleven names recommended were: Forsyth, Nelson, Ape, Shoestring, Swift, Dryer, Talus, Toutle, Wishbone, Loowit, and Leschi. In November of 1967, the Board of Geographic Names, based in Washington D.C., approved the Mt. Saint Helens glacier names based on recommendations from the Mazamas.

Published map showing the 11 Mazama named glaciers on St. Helens, ca 1967.

Diligent searches through almost a hundred years of Mazama Bulletins has turned up many other places named for or by the Mazamas and its members. To name a few of the more interesting and unique: Lost Park in Beaverton; the Mazama Campground at Crater Lake; Sahale Peak near Washington’s Lake Chelan was named for the organization’s motto; Mt. Thielsen’s Lathrop Glacier, for Mazama Theodore Lathrop; and finally the small seasonal lake that appears atop South Sister was named Teardrop Lake by three young Mazamas on a hike.

While this recounting of place names around the Northwest is in no way comprehensive, it provides a glimpse into the influence the Mazamas have had on the nomenclature and the history of the region. Place names are anchors by which the Mazamas are tied to the mountains, valleys, glaciers, and ridges and act as markers of where the organization has traveled, climbed, and camped. As the Mazamas enter into their 124th year, the places named for and by the Mazamas are a proud reminder of the organization's long and deeply rooted legacy on the landscape.

A production of the Mazama Library and Historical Collections, 2018

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