top of page

How Famous Features in Yellowstone Got Their Name

The moment you start looking at a Yellowstone map, you will instantly notice that many of the features, waterways and mountains have familiar or interesting names. The following list will explain the person (or people) that important features are named after:

Mount Washburn: Located north of Canyon Village, Mount Washburn is famous for the beautiful hike leading up to it's fire lookout. The peak is named after Henry D. Washburn, who was appointed Montana's surveyor general in 1870. Washburn led the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition to explore northwestern Wyoming. The expedition charted detailed maps and observations of what is now Yellowstone National Park. After observing geysers at Upper and Lower Geyser Basin, they decided to call one of them "Old Faithful", because of how regularly it erupted. Unfortunately, Henry Washburn died before Yellowstone became a National Park in 1872.

Mount Langford: Located near the east entrance of Yellowstone, Mount Langford is named after Nathaniel Pitt Langford of the Washburn Expedition in 1870. He played a prominent role in helping Yellowstone become a National Park, and was later appointed as the park's first superintendent.

Mount Doane: Also located near the east entrance of the park, this peak is named after Lieutenant Gustavus C. Doane, Second Calvary in the U.S. Army, from Fort Ellis, who was the military escort for the Washburn Expedition in 1870.

Mount Everts: Located near Rescue Creek in northern Yellowstone, Mount Everts is named after Truman Everts, part of the Washburn Expedition. In 1870, Everts got separated from the rest of the expedition, and also lost his pack horse, leaving him alone along the shores of Lake Yellowstone. The expedition searched for him for a week, leaving signal fires and notes along the lake, but eventually they had to leave him for dead, and kept moving on. Everts managed to stay alive, eating thistles, in Yellowstone's wilderness for 37 days, until frontiersman "Yellowstone Jack" Barronette found him.

Baronette Peak: You guessed it, Baronette Peak is named after C.J. "Yellowstone Jack" Baronette, who rescued Truman Everts in 1870. Barronette Peak (misspelled by the Hayden Geological Survey) is located in the northeastern corner of the park.

Hayden Valley: Located on the eastern side of Lower Loop Road, Hayden Valley is known as a sanctuary for bison, birds and plenty of other wildlife. It is named for Ferdinand Hayden, who led the first federally funded exploration of what is now Yellowstone in 1871. The expedition's reports, along with paintings from Thomas Moran and photographs from William Henry Jackson prompted Congress to create the first National Park, and also helped encourage westward expansion.

Mount Holmes: Named by members of the Hayden Expedition, after W.F. Holmes, a geologist for the U.S.G.S, who accompanied the Hayden Expedition. Mount Holmes is the tallest mountain peak in the Wyoming portion of the Gallatin Range.

Bechler River: Located in the southwest corner of the park, the Bechler River is named after Gustavus Bechler, who was the chief topographer of the Hayden Expedition. This remote river runs entirely within Yellowstone National Park until it meets up with the Fall River. It is located in a portion of the park known as "Cascade Corner", named by one of the founders of the National Park Service, Horace M. Albright, because of the immense amount of waterfalls in the area.

Grant Village: Yellowstone changed the course of history and became the world's first National Park in 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act. This act said “the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Norris Geyser Basin: As one of the most visited geyser basins in the park, Norris Geyser Basin is named after Philetus Norris, who became the second superintendent of Yellowstone National Park in 1877. He was the first to be paid for the role, so he was able to give a lot more of his time. When he accepted the position, there were 32 miles of road and 108 miles of trail. When he left office in 1882, there were five times as many miles of road and twice as many miles of trail.

Yount Peak: Located just outside the southeastern boundary of Yellowstone, this peak is named after Harry Yount, the first gamekeeper of Yellowstone National Park. Just because Grant signed a law saying that Yellowstone was to be protected, that didn't stop poachers and exploiters from trying to get their hands on Yellowstone's resources. In 1880, the Secretary of the Interior elected Yount to be the gamekeeper. In his reports back to Congress, he explained the challenges of protecting the wildlife, and decided to quit 14 months after he got he job.

Lamar River and Valley: Named after Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, who was the Secretary of the Interior in 1885. He appealed for help from the Secretary of War, William Endicott, to control the "lawlessness" that had taken over in the short amount of time since the park's creation. In 1886, fifty US Army soldiers set up camp in Mammoth Hot Springs, where they soon oversaw the construction of Fort Yellowstone. Lamar also persuaded Congress against the building of railroads in Yellowstone National Park. (And we're thankful he succeeded; also thankful that it's just called "Lamar Valley", and not his full name.)

Dunraven Pass: This 8,859 foot mountain pass stands between Tower and Canyon, and is named after Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, the Earl of Dunraven (Ireland). The Earl of Dunraven visited the park in 1874, and wrote about his experience in one of the earliest attempts to publicize Yellowstone. He was later honored with the naming of the pass because of the tourism that his book brought to the park.

Sheepeater Cliffs: Located Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Geyser Basin, Sheepeater Cliffs were named after the Sheepeater tribe, who are a band of Eastern Shoshone, known as Tukudeka. They were named for the bighorn sheep that they excelled at hunting.

Bunsen Peak: Surprisingly, yes, Bunsen Peak was named after the inventor of the Bunsen burner, Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, a chemist and physicist. This peak near Mammoth Hot Springs was named in 1872 by the United States Geological Survey. Bunsen was the first investigator of geyser activity.

Mount Sheridan: Located in southern Yellowstone, Mount Sheridan is named for General Phillip Sheridan of the Civil War. He is the one who authorized Lieutenant Doane to escort the Washburn Expedition, and was a huge advocate of military presence in the National Park in order to prevent the eradication of wildlife and destruction of natural structures.

Nez Perce Creek: Named after the flight of the Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph. In 1877, 750 member of the Nez Perce tribe resisted relocating from their native land in northeast Oregon to a federal reservation in southern Idaho. They attempted to escape army pursuits through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, seeking the Great Plains. In August of that year, they crossed into Yellowstone National Park, where they encountered 25 or so tourists, some of which they held hostage. They decided to exit the park through the Absaroka Mountains, and the army finally caught up to them near Bear's Paw Mountains, just 40 miles south of the Canadian border. Some Nez Perce were able to escape to freedom in Canada, and the others surrendered and were taken to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. This tragic story is passed down from generation to generation, but Yellowstone has selected four features in the park to honor the Nez Perce people.

Lewis Lake: As the third largest lake in Yellowstone, Lewis Lake is located just inside the southern border of the park. It was named by a member of the Hayden Expedition for Meriwether Lewis, although it is important to note that Lewis and Clark never entered Yellowstone.

Madison River: Originating where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet, the Madison River eventually flows through Yellowstone and Montana to converge with the Jefferson River and Gallatin River to create the Missouri River. When Lewis and Clark reached the confluence of these three rivers, they decided to name it after the Secretary of State at the time, James Madison. (The Jefferson River is named after President Thomas Jefferson, who sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition, and the Gallatin River is named after the Secretary of Treasury at the time, Albert Gallatin.)


We hope you enjoyed reading about some of the important explorers, creators, and advocates of Yellowstone National Park.

Nomadic By Nature offers day hikes and backpacking trips, and the best part about going on a guided trip through Yellowstone is the abundance of knowledge that your guide has.

We want to share the history of Yellowstone with you, and hope that you become as passionate about the park as the people described above.

Featured Trip: Cascade Corner

“Cascade Corner” refers to the southwest corner of the park, and it’s easy to see why — this guided trip through Yellowstone follows the Bechler River and its many cascading waterfalls. You have the chance to experience the solitude of backcountry geysers, soak in hot springs, gaze into crystal-clear rivers, and enjoy the vast and expansive Bechler Meadows. This backpacking trip offers a little bit of everything.

Come see why so many people call this the best backpacking trip in all of Yellowstone!


We hope you click through all of the trips that we offer to find one that is perfect for you.

And don't hesitate to reach out with any questions! We are passionate about Yellowstone, and want you to be also!


Related Posts

See All


bottom of page