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Q&A

In the United States, where would I find how a geological feature got its name?

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In the US, there are plenty of interestingly named features along with lots of really repetitive ones.

If I wanted to find out how a mountain/creek/river got its official name, where would I find that information?

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I can't prove a negative, but I don't think there is any such nation-wide historical record. Finding the history of various names will take different methods.

For some, the history and motivations are well known. For example, a number of peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire are named after presidents. The area is even called the Presidential Range.

However, many names are generic, and what exactly prompted the name is lost in time. Around here there are many examples, and I expect that's true pretty much everywhere. We can all imagine how Beaver Brook, Rocky Hill, Porcupine Hill, and Flat Pond (these are all real examples in just one small town in north-central Massachusetts) got their names. But, the details of who started using the name first and when that was are unknown today. Sometimes you can even find different names on old maps.

For nationally-prominent names, I'd start with a net search. However, for the vast majority of names, you have to ask locally. But, be prepared that the history of many names have simply been lost.

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