pine creek









rae lakes



red slate

red white





rock creek



royal arch


sally keyes

















sierra nevada

silver pass

silver spray falls

six shooter lake

sky blue lake

sky parlor

smedberg lake

soldier meadow

sphinx creek


Sierra Nevada & Owens Valley Place Names
mule trainmule train

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owens valley
Owens Valley looking southwest from the Inyo Mountains above Tinemaha Reservoir
[Photo - Unknown]
Owens Valley
Owens Valley, Owens Lake, Owens River, and Owens Point all derive their name from Richard Owens who was a member of John C. Fremont's third (1845 - 1846) expedition into the area. "That Owens was a good man it is enough to say that he and Carson were friends. Cool, brave, and of good judgment; a good hunter and a good shot; experienced in mountain life; he was an acquisition, and proved valuable throughout the campaign."
The party split up at Walker Lake, Nevada. Fremont, Carson, and Owens crossed the Sierra via Donner Pass. Walker, Kern and others went south and crossed via Walker Pass. "To one of the lakes along their route on the east side of the range I gave Owens' name." The names of the valley, the peak, and the point are all derived from the lake. The man for whom they were named never saw any of them.

[John C. Fremont, Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California]

owens valley
Owens Valley looking east across Owens Lake from the Horseshoe Meadows Road
[Photo courtesy of Ray DeLea]

Boreal Plateau
The Boreal Plateau was named by Oliver Kehrlein because of the frigid, windswept character of the plateau. The plateau, which contains Funston Lake overlooks the glacial carved Kern River gorge and the Great Western Divide to the west.

funston lake
Funston Lake high atop on the Boreal Plateau overlooking the Great Western Divide.

(Photo courtesy of Ray DeLea)
boreal plateau
The Boreal Plateau with Funston Lake and the Great Western Divide in the distance.
(Photo courtesy of Bob Steele)
boreal plateau
The Boreal Plateau with Mt. Langley (right background) in the distance.
(Photo courtesy of Bob Steele)
boreal plateau
Looking across the Boreal Plateau towards the Great Western Divide.
(Photo courtesy of Bob Steele)

alabama hills
The Alabama Hills, Lone Pine Peak (left) and Mt. Whitney (center background) from off of Movie Road in the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA.
(Photo courtesy of Ray DeLea)
Alabama Hills
"In the early 1860's the Hitchcock boys discovered a mine in these hills which they called the 'Old Abe' mine, and they called their district the 'Alabama District.' They were Rebels and in those days 'Old Abe' was a term of ridicule. But they named the district in honor of the Confederate Cruiser 'Alabama.' These hills are now called the 'Alabama Hills.'"
The CSS Alabama was a British-built ship, with Southern officers and a British crew, that destroyed a total of 64 American merchant ships in the Atlantic and Indian oceans during the Civil War. She was sunk by the USS Kearsarge off the port of Cherbourg, France, in June 1864.
[Thomas Keough, "Over Kearsarge Pass in 1864"]
alabama hills
The Alabama Hills and the Sierra Nevada - Lone Pine, CA.
(Photo courtesy of Ray DeLea)
yellow sky
Gregory Peck and Anne Baxter in the Alabama Hills during the
filming of Yellow Sky

(Photo - Unknown)

alabama hills
The Alabama Hills - Lone Pine, CA.
(Photo courtesy of Ray DeLea)

Camiaca Peak
camiaca peak
Camiaca Peak
(Photo courtesy of Noondueler)
In the Yosemite Research Library files is a copy of a handwritten note from Doug Hubbard about an Indian who gave him a piece of root to chew; it tasted like ginseng. The Indian said that when he was young he gathered large quantities of the root and took them to the Sioux country to trade for buffalo robes. "He told me his name was Cloudy Camiaca.... Later... I applied it to rather a fine peak. I thought I was playing quite a joke on Californians and at the same time giving Camiaca a final trip." Although the story is not true it makes for interesting reading.

The former town of Cartago was created as a steamer landing on the southwest shore of Owens Lake to handle shipments of silver bullion from Cerro Gordo. John Baptiste Daneri, native of Sardinia and a Lone Pine merchant, built the landing, a large warehouse, and a store, in 1872. For six months the place didn't have a name, and was referred to as "Lakeville" and "Danerisburg." On November 1, 1872, Daneri named it "Cartago," perhaps - as Lingenfelter suggested - in the hope that he was creating "the Carthage of the West."
The creek was also called "Carthage Creek" originally before it was renamed to"Cartago Creek."
[Richard E. Lingenfelter, "The Desert Steamers"]
cartago creek

harrison pass
Harrison Pass, or Harrison's Pass as it was formerly called, is named after Ben Harrison a local sheep-herder in the 1880s. Ben was part Cherokee Indian and he built a monument on the pass. The pass was probably used by sheep-herders in 1875 or 1876. Bolton C. Brown of the Sierra Club (May 1897 Sierra Club Bulletin) said the pass would never be popular until a windlas and cable were put at the head of the pass.
harrison pass
Harrison Pass
[ASRSF photo]
harrison pass
Harrison Pass (foreground)
[Tom Becht photo]

jack main canyon
Looking north up Jack Main Canyon
[Photo courtesy of Alex Wierbinski]
jack main canyon
Jack Main Canyon was named after an old sheep-herder who ranged sheep in the region. The herder's name was actually Jack Means. C.H. Burt said that the name of the canyon as it appears on maps today is incorrect. All of the early sheep and cattle men in the region called the canyon "Jack Means Canyon" and the present name is a corruption of that name.
[Sierra Club Bulletin - 1925]

red and white mtn.
red and white mountain
Red and White Mountain
and Red Slate Mountain - background
(Photo courtesy of Noondueler)
Red and White Mountain was named by Theodore S. Solomons in 1894. "The name has gained a place in the maps, and it ispeculiarly descriptive of the great peak of red slate fantastically streaked with seams of white granite. The name identifies the mountain."
[Sierra Club Bulletin - February 1903]

Humphreys Basin, Humphreys Lakes, and Mount Humphreys was named for Andrew Atkinson Humphreys (1810-1883), soldier and engineer, the grandson of Joshua Humphreys, who designed the "Constitution" and other frigates of the War of 1812. Humphreys distinguished himself in the Civil War. After the war he was chief engineer of the U.S. Army until he retired in 1879. "The summit of Mount Humphreys is not more than eight feet square.... It is one mass of cracked and broken blocks, thrown loosely together in such a way as to warn one to move cautiously lest the whole top should break off and fall into the great abyss to the eastward.... Probably no one had ever stood where we then were, unless perhaps during the early Jurassic period, before the mountain was fully sculptured.
[Sierra Club Bulletin - January 1905].
humphreys basin

humphreys basin
Humphreys Basin
[Photo courtesy of Chad Thomas]

lake sabrina
Lake Sabrina was named for Sabrina Hobbs, whose husband,Charles M. Hobbs, was the first general manager of the Nevada California Power Company, which dammed the lake during 1907-1908.
lake sabrina
Lake Sabrina
(Photo courtesy of alwayswanderlust)

Further Reading
This is perhaps the most fascinating book you can read about construction of the John Muir Trail
"Pathway in the Sky: The Story of the John Muir Trail" by Hal Roth 1965

ABE Books, making "out of print" books easier to find.


John Muir Trail
The idea of a crest-parallel trail through the High Sierra came to me one day while herding my uncle's cattle in an immense unfenced alfalfa field near Fresno. It was in 1884 and I was fourteen." (Theodore S. Solomons - Sierra Club Bulletin, April 1938). "Sleeping that night [in 1895] at the base of Mt. Huxley, warmed by our fire of gnarled juniper, I dreamed of my task fully done. A well-marked trail led from the distant Yosemite past the long lake, up the snow-basin, and over the divide to the King's River. I hope my dream was prophetic. The way, at all events, is clear. Only the trail waits to be built." (Solomons) The "long lake" and the "divide" were Wanda Lake and Muir Pass, which were not named until about 1907.
Solomons did the earliest explorations for what later became the John Muir Trail. J.N. LeConte continued the search for the best route. In 1915 the California legislature, in response to a Sierra Club proposal, made an initial appropriation of $10,000 for construction of the trail, which was to be named for John Muir, who had died in December 1914. The John Muir Trail as it exists today was completed when the sections were built over Forester Pass in 1931 and Mather Pass in 1938.
John Muir Trail photos courtesy of John Pelltier
(Visit John's website and see his mile by mile photo journal of the entire John Muir Trail)

lyell canyon
Lyell Canyon

south of island pass
South of Island Pass

red cinder cone
Red Cinder Cone near Reds Meadow

from duck pass
Heading south from Duck Pass

evolution lake
Evolution Lake

le conte canyon
Le Conte Canyon

golden staircase
The Golden Staircase

upper basin
Upper Basin

fin dome
Fin Dome

bighorn plateau
The Bighorn Plateau

hitchock lakes
Hitchcock Lakes (L) and Guitar Lake (R)

mt whitney
Smthosonean High Altitude Observatory on the summit of Mt. Whitney

mount ritter
mount ritter
Mt. Ritter (left)and Mt. Banner (right)
(Photo - unknown)
Mount Ritter and the Ritter Range is named for the great German geographer and founder of the science of modern comparative geography - Karl Ritter (1779 - 1859). It was named by the Whitney Survey in 1864. Karl Ritter was a professor of history at the University of Berlin in the 1840s when Whitney was a student at the university.

Sierra Nevada Thunderstorm
sierra thunderstorm



green button Spanish and Indian Place Names of California - Their Meaning and Their Romance by Nellie Van De Grift Sanchez, 1922
green button Place Names of the Sierra Nevada - From Abbot to Zumwalt by Peter Browning, 1986
green button Naming the Eastern Sierra - Dirty Sock to Bloody Canyon by Marguerite Sowaal, 1985
green button
Place Names of the Sierra Nevada - From Abbot to Zumwalt by Francis P. Farquhar, 1926
green button
The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States by Henry Ganett, 1902
face ABE Books, making "out of print" books easier to find. face


Trans-Sierra Highway  

Slim Randles "Night Ride"  


More Sierra Place Names


George Brown, Native American


To the Top of Mt. Whitney by Rena Moore

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This page was last updated on 15 January 2018