Vancouver Notch: Committee to consider proposal to name Mount Rainier foothills feature

A Pierce County resident’s proposal to name an area of the Mount Rainier foothills in honor of the late explorer George Vancouver could move closer this week to a final approval.

In the spring of 1792, British Navy Captain George Vancouver was aboard the H.M.S. Discovery in Puget Sound and surveying the natural environment when he noticed a large, v-shaped notch in the foothills of Mount Rainier. Vancouver, whose ship was anchored at Restoration Point on the southern end of Bainbridge Island, noted the feature in his journal—”The appearance of a very abrupt division in the snowy range of mountains immediately to the south of Mount Rainier, which was very conspicuous from the ship, and the main arm of the inlet appearing to stretch in that direction from the point we were then upon”—and boarded one of two smaller boats that headed south, past Vashon Island, and into Commencement Bay, only to find what he believed to be a dead end. Vancouver noted, “We were excessively anxious to ascertain the truth, of which we were not long held in suspense. We found the inlet to terminate here in an extensive circular compact bay, whose waters washed the base of mount Rainier.”

Vancouver would go on to name dozens of mountains, waterways, and islands in the Puget Sound area—but the v-shaped notch remained nameless and largely elusive.

That changed several years ago when a Puyallup resident named Barbara Reid started to explore Puget Sound in her own boat. Three years ago, Reid was reading Vancouver’s journal when she came across his note about the v-shaped notch. She could see it, too. Reid’s observation set in motion a plan to name this feature Vancouver Notch. She shared her idea with local historical societies, museums, yacht clubs, governments, and elected officials. She submitted a 24-page application (with six letters of support) to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to formally name Vancouver Notch.

The Tacoma Daily Index interviewed Reid and discussed her proposal in a feature article this summer (see “Vancouver Notch: Mount Rainier foothills could soon honor the late explorer,” Tacoma Daily Index, July 31, 2015; and “Tacoma Daily Index Top Stories — August 2015,” Tacoma Daily Index, Sept. 1, 2015).

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names accepted public input on Reid’s proposal earlier this year. The committee is scheduled to consider the proposal during a public meeting on Fri., Oct. 23, at 10 a.m., at the Department of Natural Resources (Room 172), located at 1111 Washington St. SE, in Olympia. A copy of the agenda is available online here. A copy of the proposal summary and application is available online here. Information about Reid and her proposal is available online here.

If the proposal is approved, it will bump up to the federal level and the United States Board on Geographic names. In the end, the name Vancouver Notch will be entered into a database maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey and used by cartographers to create maps.

UPDATE | FRI., OCT. 23 @ 5:30 P.M. – The Washington State Committee on Geographic Names approved the proposal during a public meeting this morning. A link to the press release is online here. Also, the Tacoma Daily Index visited the Vancouver Notch area earlier this week. A feature article about the trip is online here.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of Vancouver Notch, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.