Montana Geographic Names Advisor

Geographic Name Change Request

Change Lemhi Pass to Disappointment Pass
Lemhi County, Idaho and Beaverhead County, Montana

Status = Denied

Description gap, elevation 2,247 m (7,373 ft), located in Salmon National Forest and Beaverhead National Forest, along the Continental Divide, in the Bitterroot Range, 19 km (10 mi) E of Tendoy, 69 km (43 mi) WSW of Dillon; the name recognizes the disappointment experienced by Lewis and Clark when they crossed the gap in August 1805
Location 44º58’27”N, 113º26’39”W
PLSS Location Sec 9,T10S,R15W
Proposal remove an “overused” name and recognize the historical significance of the feature
Proponent W.H. Valentine; Boise, ID
Not Lemhi Pass, Lewis and Clark Pass, Middle Pass
Administrative area Salmon National Forest and Beaverhead National Forest
Previous BGN Action Lemhi Pass (BGN 1968)
See also
GNIS ID 384568
Local Usage Lemhi Pass (area residents; historical organizations)
Published Lemhi Pass (USGS 1965/68,1966,1980,1988; USFS 1962,1965,1979,1981; Forest Atlas of 1909; Forest Map of 1913; General Land Office, 1888; Army Map Service, 1963; National Historic Landmark, 1960; Idaho State Highway map 1967, 1994; Montana State Highway map, 1995; Montana Railroad map, 1937/48; Lemhi County highway map, 1966; Beaverhead County highway map, 1958; Montana Writers’ Guide, 1939; The Montana Frontier, 1942; Century Atlas, 1898; Names on the Face of Montana, 1992), Lewis and Clark Pass (Lewis and Clark Trail map, 1905; gas company maps, 1960’s)
roposal is to change officially the name of Lemhi Pass to Disappointment Pass. The gap lies along the Continental Divide on the boundary between Lemhi County, Idaho and Beaverhead County, Montana, and also on the boundary between the Salmon National Forest and the Beaverhead National Forest. The proponent, a resident of Boise, suggests that the name “Lemhi” is “overused” in the area and that the name is not historically accurate nor significant because it is not, as is often presumed, a word of Native American origin. The original Fort Limhi was founded in 1855 by Mormon missionaries and was named for King Limhi in the Book of Mormon. The proponent suggests the gap should be renamed Disappointment Pass, because it was at this location that Meriwether Lewis, trying to cross the Rocky Mountains on August 12, 1805, first realized that the Pacific Ocean was not just beyond this mountain range as he and William Clark had anticipated. According to the Beaverhead National Forest website, “It was a point of hopeful anticipation, as the “Corps of Discovery” looked forward to meeting the Shoshone and trading for horses to continue their journey, and a point of disappointment as it became obvious that a navigable waterway to the West Coast would not be found among these rugged mountains.” According to the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), there are 17 geographic features in Idaho named “Lemhi”, including a county, a community, a mountain range, and two gaps. The name Lemhi Pass has appeared on maps for at least 100 years, and is cited in numerous documents referring to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1960, the gap was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1968, the Board considered a proposal by the Lewis and Clark Trail Commission to rename the gap Lewis and Clark Pass, but this proposal was rejected, citing overwhelming local and historical usage of the existing name. The Trail Commission cited the following excerpt from Marshall Sprague’s 1964 volume, “The Great Gates: The Story of the Rocky Mountain Passes” as supporting evidence for the change: “It was called Middle Pass in [the] 1850’s and it is marked Lewis and Clark Pass on some gas company maps today.” They also claimed that it is the only gap along the Continental Divide that was crossed by both Lewis and Clark. There are currently three geographic features in Idaho named “Disappointment”: a bar, a lake, and a stream; and two in Montana: a lake and a stream. Cape Disappointment (BGN 1891) in the State of Washington was named in 1788 by Captain John Meares as a result of his failure in locating the mouth of the Columbia River.

Montana Geographic Names Advisor Recommendation - Unknown
Domestic Names Committee Decision Date - Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Domestic Names Committee Discussion - A motion was made and seconded not to approve the change, citing a lack of local, State, or Federal support for changing a long-standing name in widespread published usage.

Vote: 12 in favor
0 against
0 abstentions

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