Montana Geographic Names Advisor

Geographic Name Change Request

Change Ward Creek to Gold Creek
Ravalli County, Montana

Status = Approved

Description stream, 9.3 km (5.8 mi) long, heads in Bitterroot National Forest 1 km (0.6 mi) E of Ward Mountain at 46°10’10”N, 114°16’19”W, flows E then NE to enter the Bitterroot River 6.4 km (4 mi) S of Hamilton
Location 46°10’57”N, 114°10’24”W
PLSS Location Secs 24, 23, 26-30&19, T5N, R21W
Proposal to change a name and the application of that name to reflect historical usage
Proponent Cheryl Rothlisberger; Hamilton, MT
Not Ward Creek
Administrative area Bitterroot National Forest
Previous BGN Action None
See also 39103, 39104, 39106
GNIS ID 792811
Local Usage Gold Creek (local residents)
Published Gold Creek (USGS 1904/49), Gold (Ward) Creek (State Engineers Office, 1958), Ward Creek (USGS 1964, 1980, 1998; USFS 1981)
This proposal is to change the application of the name Gold Creek and apply it to the stream that is currently named Ward Creek. The name Gold Creek is applied currently to a 5.6 km (3.5 mi) long stream that heads within the Bitterroot National Forest and flows east, the southeast, then northeast before entering the Bitterroot River. Another branch that enters this stream from the south is labeled Ward Creek. However, the proponent reports that this latter branch is in fact the correct course of Gold Creek. As
evidence, she notes that the name Gold Creek was applied to the proposed location on 1904 and 1949 U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps. An 1888 water rights document also referred to Gold Creek as proposed.

It is not known why the name Gold Creek was moved to the more northerly stream when the first largescale USGS map was published in 1964, but since then the State of Montana has cited those newer maps in its water rights and land survey documents. A State Engineer’s Office Water Resources Survey published in 1958 labeled the southern stream Gold (Ward) Creek but did not name the more northerly one. Neither stream is shown on the official Ravalli County highway map. The proponent reports that the error has impacted her claim to water rights because any new claims refer to Ward Creek and not to Gold Creek, which is the name that still appears on her family’s property deeds. The origin of neither name has been determined, although the stream that is currently labeled Ward Creek heads just east of Ward Mountain and there was once a small community in the area named Ward. The proponent suggests the name likely derives from that of George Ward, a prominent homesteader in the area. One of the proponent’s neighbors has submitted a letter supporting her proposal; he also suggested that since the existing Gold Creek needs a name, the two principal tributaries should be labeled “Middle Fork” and “North Fork.” The proponent concurs and has submitted additional proposals for those names (q.v.). (Note: the case briefs on Review List 391 are incorrect; initial discussions on naming the tributaries suggested the more southerly branch might also be labeled “South Fork,” but the proponent believes that would be incorrect as the more historically accurate name has always been simply Gold Creek.)

The Ravalli County Commissioners have stated they have no objection to the renaming of Ward Creek to Gold Creek, provided the resulting “unnamed” branches are given official names. They concur with the two proposed tributary names. The Montana Board on Geographic Names Authority supports the names as proposed, while the U.S. Forest Service has no objection. A copy of the proposal was sent to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation and to the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, both of which are Federally-recognized, but no response was received which is presumed to indicate a lack of an opinion on the issue.

Montana Geographic Names Advisor Recommendation - Support (Friday, January 13, 2006)
Domestic Names Committee Decision Date - Thursday, July 13, 2006
Domestic Names Committee Discussion - A motion was made and seconded to approve this change.

Vote: 11 in favor
0 against
0 abstentions

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