Montana Geographic Names Advisor

Geographic Name Change Request

Rainwater Mountain
Flathead County, Montana

Status = Denied

Description summit, elevation 2,088 m (6,850 ft), in Flathead National Forest, at the NW end of the Flathead Range, 1.1 km (0.7 mi) W of the head of Kootenai Creek, 4 km (2.5 mi) SE of West Glacier; named for the Rainwater family that once lived at the base of the summit
Location 48°28’04”N, 113°56’03”W
PLSS Location Sec 5, T31N, R18W
Proposal to make official a commemorative name reported to be in local use
Proponent Sue Lawrence; West Glacier, MT
Not Strawberry Mountain
Administrative area Flathead National Forest
Previous BGN Action None
See also
Local Usage Rainwater Mountain (area residents), Strawberry Mountain (area residents)
Published None found
This proposal is to make official the name Rainwater Mountain for an unnamed summit in central Flathead County. The summit has an elevation of 2,088 m (6,850 ft), and lies along the boundary between Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park, at the northwest end of the Flathead Range, and approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) southeast of the community of West Glacier. According to the proponent, whose family has lived in West Glacier for almost 100 years, many longtime area residents refer to the summit as Rainwater Mountain because two generations of a family named Rainwater lived at its base until approximately 50 years ago. She adds that more recent residents and visitors sometimes call the summit Strawberry Mountain “because of its shape,” but as the proponent points out, there is another summit with that name just 29 km (18 mi) to the south and also within Flathead County. She suggests the summit needs an official name because it is a prominent landmark in the scenic corridor to West Glacier, and to have it named officially Rainwater Mountain would eliminate the confusion caused by having two “unofficial” names.

The proponent was asked to provide letters of support for the proposal, which resulted in the receipt of four letters from local organizations; the Flathead County Sheriff and the Coram-West Glacier Volunteer Fire Department both stated they were in support of efforts to eliminate a duplicate Strawberry Mountain but neither mentioned the proposed name. The Glacier Outdoor Center and a local trading post/restaurant also submitted letters of support for giving the summit an official name, but again, no specific name was mentioned. A follow up letter to the proponent, copied to each of these organizations, asked for further clarification but no response was received.

A book on Glacier National Park place names states: “Strawberry Mountain: This elongated mountain or ridge looms over Belton/West Glacier just outside Glacier National Park but at the main entrance. However, the name seems to have been applied locally by mistake. The mountain used to be called Rainwater Mountain after a family from Wisconsin who once lived near its base, whereas Strawberry is actually a little butte that squats snugly between Rainwater and Desert Mountains. Clearly seen from the highway…this little mountain does indeed resemble a strawberry.”

The Flathead County Commissioners provided a letter expressing opposition to the proposal. The County stated “We concur with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service that there is no evidence the mountain needs to be named.” The Montana State Names Authority also does not endorse the name, citing “uncertainties about the proposal and lack of evidence of support.” The State agreed that the change could lead to confusion, as some residents and businesses do still refer to the feature as Strawberry Mountain, and also questioned the historical significance of the Rainwater family. Despite the proponent’s claim that the name Rainwater Mountain appears in State data files, the State Names Authority was unable to find any evidence of that.

The National Park Service also does not support the proposal, although it noted that because the feature lies just outside the Glacier National Park boundary, the official recommendation ought to come from the U.S. Forest Service. The Park’s Wilderness Manager spoke with several local residents, noting “[they] were very sensitive to the renaming [sic] and usually quite upset because it has always been known as Strawberry. There is [another] Strawberry Mtn. down in the Southfork but it has never been confusing with anyone. I believe the uproar from the locals would be huge. If it needs to be named then Strawberry should be the only choice.” The Park’s Historian added, “Formally naming and subsequently replacing the local name of Strawberry Mountain to Rainwater Mountain because someone named Rainwater lived in the vicinity at some time in the past, seems frivolous and totally unnecessary. I have never heard this name used.” The U.S. Forest Service, in choosing not to support the proposal, cited the restrictions of the Wilderness Naming Policy. No proposal was received to formally name the summit Strawberry Mountain.

A copy of the proposal for Rainwater Mountain was forwarded to the following Federallyrecognized Tribes for comment: the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Reservation; the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation; the Confederated Tribes f the Colville Reservation; the Crow Tribe of the Crow Reservation; and the Fort Belknap Indian Community. No response was received, which is presumed to indicate a lack of an opinion on the issue.

A decision on this proposal was deferred at the DNC’s December 2007 meeting, citing confusion regarding the precise location of the summit proposed to be named Rainwater Mountain and whether it was in fact the same feature as the locally-known “Strawberry ountain.” The DNC also asked the Forest Service clarify the issue of whether the summit was in fact in or along the boundary of a Wilderness. The DNC’s representative from the NPS has determined that the name “Strawberry Mountain” is in local use and that Glacier National Park staff believe it is the same summit as Rainwater Mountain. The USFS has confirmed that the summit is on the boundary of the Great Bear Wilderness and has reaffirmed its lack of support for the proposal.

Montana Geographic Names Advisor Recommendation - Oppose (Monday, September 24, 2007)
Domestic Names Committee Decision Date - Thursday, January 10, 2008
Domestic Names Committee Discussion - A motion was made and seconded not to approve this proposal, citing the negative recommendations of the Flathead County government, the Montana Geographic Names Authority, and the U.S. Forest Service, all of whom cited a lack of evidence that the proposal warranted an exception to the Wilderness Naming Policy.

Vote: 9 in favor
0 against
0 abstentions

The name was also discussed on 12/13/2007
A motion was made and seconded to defer a decision on this proposal, citing some confusion regarding the location of the summit relative to a feature known locally as “Strawberry Mountain” as well as the issue of whether or not the summit was or was not in a Wilderness. Fagan offered to clarify the feature’s location with the staff at Glacier National Park, while Kanalley stated that she would investigate the Wilderness issue.

Vote: 10 in favor
0 against
0 abstentions

Page History