What's In A Name?
Have you ever wondered what the meanings are behind the interesting names of places in Paradise Meadows and around Mount Washington Alpine Resort?
Many are named for early explorers and trailblazers from the Comox District Mountaineering Club, like Clinton Wood, who built the original Forbidden Plateau Lodge in the 1930s.
A dozen are named for war heroes, thanks to the personal efforts of Comox Valley activist Ruth Masters, who was immortalized herself in December 2008 when the name Ruth Masters Lake was formally adopted for a small, turquoise-coloured lake in the heart of Strathcona Provincial Park.
Here are a few features and how they got their names:
Paradise Meadows When Clinton Wood was searching for an easier way to get to Forbidden Plateau in 1928 (those efforts resulted in the Dove Creek Trail), he spotted these meadows. The name was adopted on Dec. 12, 1939 and re-approved on Oct. 7, 1948.
A 2.2 kilometre loop trail has been created from the trailhead adjacent to Raven Lodge and through the subalpine Paradise Meadows. It is the jumping off point for many other hikes in Strathcona Park.
Lake Helen McKenzie Helen Maud Hutton McKenzie was the niece of British Columbia Lieutenant Governor Robert Randolph Bruce. She served as chatelaine at Government House (Bruce’s residence), from March 1926 to February 1930.
McKenzie accompanied Bruce to the official opening of the Dove Creek Trail, accessing Forbidden Plateau, in 1929.
McKenzie Lake is named for John McKenzie, who was Mayor of Courtenay in 1929, the year that water rights were obtained to dam the lake. The lake was originally named Seean, a native word meaning “Chief”, to honour all Mayors of Courtenay, but too many people complained about it so it was changed.
Douglas Lake is named for William (Bill) Douglas, a Courtenay City Alderman, who was the first to introduce trout fry to this lake and also to McKenzie Lake, part of the Douglas-McKenzie Lake Trail in McKenzie Meadows.
Battleship Lake When Clinton Wood took his son hiking with him in Paradise Meadows one day, his son said the profile of trees on the three small islands in the lake resembled battleships at anchor. The Comox District Mountaineering Club applied in 1935 to formalize the name.
Kwai Lake is named for the Clinton Wood family. Kwai is a native word for “wood.”
Croteau Lake Eugene Croteau operated Croteau Guest Camp in the 1930s. Ruth Masters suggested the lake be named after Croteau and it was adopted in 1939. Croteau Beach in Comox is also named after the same man.
Mt. Albert Edward Considered the most ascended of the 2,000-metre peaks on Vancouver Island, Mount Albert Edward was named for Prince Albert Edward in 1862 and formally adopted on March 31, 1914. The Prince later became England’s King Edward VII.
Mt. Becher Mount Becher is named for Admiral Alexander Bridgeport Becher, a well-known and respected surveyor with the Royal Navy. His name appeared on the feature on a British Admiralty Chart published in 1862. The mountain was known in the 1920s as Quartz Creek Mountain and early explorers accessed it from the Strathcona Trail near Bevan Village, just outside of Courtenay. The trail connecting Paradise Meadows and Mount Becher is still popular with hikers, nearly 100 years later.
Golden Hinde The Golden Hinde was first dubbed ‘The Rooster’s Comb’ during a 1914 survey of Vancouver Island, although author Lindsay Elms writes that no one knows who gave the ‘barnyard’ name to the peak.
In 1937, surveyor Norman Stewart felt the highest peak on the Island (2,200 metres or 7,218 feet) should have a more regal name, and suggested naming it after Sir Francis Drake’s flagship, Golden Hind.
Castlecrag Mountain While “Castlecrag Mountain” is the official name of this geographical feature now, it was first named as Castle Crag in 1935 by Norman C. Stewart. British Columbia’s Geographic Board at the time, however, felt the name was too obscure; hence the name change in 1948. Located southwest of Moat Lake, Castlecrag Mountain rises 1,765 metres (5,791 feet) above sea level.
Moat Lake The late Sid Williams, a pioneer in the Comox Valley who was also known for his sense of humour, named Moat Lake because it sits below Castlecrag. The name was formally adopted on December 12, 1939.
Circlet Lake Prospector John Brown named this lake in the 1920s. Late Comox naturalist Allan Brooks surmised that because the lake is located within a cirque (a deep, bowl-shaped hollow located at the head of a valley), it might have been a corruption of the term.
Hairtrigger Lake As its name suggests, this lake was named for an incident in the 1930s where an outdoorsman, Clinton Wood (also Courtenay’s Water Commissioner in that era) was a little quick on the trigger while out hunting deer for his party. Since he missed, they all had to hike back out of the bush without dinner.
Strata Mountain The pronounced vertical stratification and colouring of this peak prompted either Clinton Wood or C.L. Harrison to come up with this name in the early 1930s. The name was formally adopted on Dec. 12, 1939.
Lake Beautiful Lake Beautiful is one of three lakes so named in B.C., but it has the distinction of being the first to be registered in the B.C. Geographical Names Information System. Clinton Wood and Bill Douglas supposedly named the lake in 1927; however, it wasn’t formally adopted until Dec. 12, 1939.
Cruikshank Canyon George Cruikshank, for which Cruikshank Canyon is named, was Honourable Secretary of the 1864 Vancouver Island Exploration Committee.
Murray Meadows Jack Murray used to pasture his horses in a peaceful meadow southwest of Croteau Lake, in between trips packing for Eugene Croteau. The meadows were so named sometime in the 1930s.
Slingshot Meadows Similar to the origins of Murray Meadows, Slingshot Meadows was named in the 1930s to identify a place where horses used to be tethered. It was called “Slingshot” because someone allegedly left a slingshot hanging on a tree in the meadow.
Alexandra Peak Named for the wife of King Edward VII in December 1939, in association with Mount Albert Edward. Alexandra, the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, was Princess of Wales to Albert Edward, her prince. He later became King Edward VII.
Jutland Mountain Jutland Mountain was known in the 1920s as Mt. Arthur, referring to Arthur Leighton, QC of Duncan. In the 1930s a Captain Beadnell proposed that the peak’s name be changed to Mount Jutland to commemorate the famous First World War naval battle. The new name was formally adopted on Dec. 12, 1939 then changed in 1948 to Jutland Mountain.
DID YOU KNOW?
Mount Washington was named after Rear-Admiral John Washington, a Royal Navy officer who made a name for himself as a naval hydrographer, surveying and mapping seas, lakes and rivers for navigation. Captain Richards, part of a crew dispatched to survey Vancouver Island for the Royal Navy, named the mountain in Washington’s honour in 1864, the year after Washington’s death.
DID YOU ALSO KNOW?
There are 99 mountain peaks in Strathcona Provincial Park. The park itself was the first designated provincial park in B.C., dedicated in 1911. The Province celebrated the Park’s centennial in 2011.
For more on place names in Strathcona Park and areas surrounding the Comox Valley, the Comox District Mountaineering Club has a thorough list online at www.comoxhiking.com.