Sixtymile - Grand Canyon Names

Grand Canyon Place Name Notes

There are uncertainties to the origin of many Grand Canyon place names. The best print resources are Arizona Place Names by W.C. Barnes, and River to Rim by Nancy Brian. On the web, visit Mike Mahanay's excellent Grand Canyon Place Names. Naming is a process that still goes on today and there are names currently in use that are not found on maps, and there are places with multiple names or that have been re-appellated.

Anasazi - This name for the people who left most signs of occupancy and human use within Grand Canyon has gone out of fashion today and is replaced by the term, Ancestral Pueblo. Because "anasazi" is a Navajo word for the pueblo people who were in conflict with the Navajo, the Hopi people of today don't appreciate hearing their ancestors called "enemy." Although Ancestral Pueblo might be good anthropology, it still seems like a poor name. The appropriate Hopi name should be Hisatsinom.

Awatubi - The correct Hopi name is Awatovi, one of the original Hopi pueblos which was converted to Christianity during the Spanish conquest. As a result of conflicts with the traditional Hopi communities the village was destroyed in 1700 and left to ruin.

Bright Angel - Although it's recorded that J.W. Powell named the Bright Angel in contrast to the Green River tributary he called the Dirty Devil, what is not generally known is that Dirty Devil was a nickname Powell used on William Dunn, one of the three who left the Powell expedition at Separation Canyon. The less widely circulated tale of how this came about is recounted in a letter from Billy Hawkins to R.B. Stanton.

Shinumo - The origin of the word is traced to J.W. Powell who was reported by F.W. Dellenbaugh to have referred to the ancient pueblo people by this name. Locations include Shinumo Altar and Shinumo Wash in the Marble Canyon area, and Shinumo Canyon near Kanab Creek. The original location called Shinumo Canyon was described as a tributary of Kanab Creek, so today's Shinumo Canyon is not the same place, and I speculate that the name was transposed to the current place by W.W. Bass.

Skeleton Point - When you visit the Phantom Ranch cantina, look for the mule trip map on the wall. The wranglers have a tradition of landmarks and place-names uniquely associated with their perspective and profession. The story of Skeleton Point is that freight mules are all tied together nose-to-tail on the trail and that one of these mules took the whole string over the cliff here. The pile of bones that resulted gave this place-name, and the bones are gone but the name sticks.

Surprise Valley - The correct historic origin of this place-name is documented, associated with the Deer Creek area above the narrows. The evidence for this includes the report by E.O. Beaman of the early opening of this area in 1872, and the early geologic maps of C.E. Dutton. When you pass through the locale currently mapped with this place-name the only surprise may be "Where is the surprise?" If hikers and other present visitors would adopt the habit of referring to the Deek Creek area as Surprise Valley there could be a chance to recover the correct historic association by the force of use.

Walthenberg - The alternate spelling, Waltenberg, appears frequently. Although Walthenberg is on the Matthes-Evans survey which he assisted, an early edition of Arizona Place Names lists Walthenberg Canyon as a corrupted place name so John Waltenberg is most likely correct.


Catalog of Places