Monday, March 3, 2008

The Changing Names

March 3, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Any geographical region in the world that is endowed with extremely rugged terrain usually has a canyon named “lost” or “hidden.” The Superstition Wilderness Area is no exception. 

Since the early fifties I have heard stories about a Lost Canyon, Hidden Canyon or Mystery Canyon being located within the Superstition Wilderness Area. These three names will not be found on any official map printed on the region. Landmark names create a considerable amount of confusion among and between generations of families. A great example of this is the trusted name of Hieroglyphic Canyon near the old King’s Ranch Resort. Hieroglyphic Canyon was known as Apache Springs Canyon until the late 1930’s. The many nomadic Apaches and Yavapai who roamed the region did not peck out these elaborate panels of pictoglyphs found here. These works must be attributed to a much earlier culture. This is also true in many other locations throughout the Superstition Wilderness Area.

While I was working on the Quarter Circle U Ranch during the mid-1950’s, I kept hearing stories about a lost or hidden canyon in the Superstition Wilderness Area. It was very difficult to put much stock in the stories because I couldn’t find the landmarks on any maps that were available at the time. I have heard several people refer to Bluff Springs Mountain Canyon as Hidden Canyon. However, the canyon was never officially called Hidden Canyon.
Hieroglyphic Canyon near the old King's Ranch Resort was known as Apache Springs Canyon until the late 1930's. King's Ranch is now Gold Canyon.

The reason some people called it Hidden Canyon was because of its isolated location at the northern end of Bluff Springs Mountain. Many old timers interchanged the word “lost” with “trap” for Trap Canyon. Immediately below the Upper La Barge Box, on the right side going upstream, is a deep and narrow canyon called Hidden Canyon. Bill Hidden, an old time prospector in the area, kept a camp in this canyon for many years. Hence we find the name Hidden Canyon.

I would never have dreamed of a canyon named after a person with the name of Hidden. Ironic as it may seem, this is quite unusual. However it does make a point. We may have been convinced the canyon was named after a hidden treasure and then years later find out it was named after a man named Hidden.

We have a Hidden Springs in the Superstition Wilderness Area, but it was not named after Bill Hidden. The spring is very difficult to find especially if you don’t know how to look, hence the name Hidden.

I don’t know anyone by the name of Lost, but I would never rule out the possibility of the name occurring. There is a Lost Spring in the Superstition Wilderness Area, but it is not an official name. The old-time cattlemen gave most of the landmarks in the region their names. The term Lost Canyon sounds very intriguing to those interested in treasure or historical things.

Names within the Superstition Wilderness Area will continue to change over the years to come. When you look at the outrageous name changes that have occurred during the last three decades in the Apache Junction area you soon realize the impact of random name changes. Just a few of the street name changes will attest to that fact.

Vineyard Road changed to Ironwood Road, Wilson Drive to Idaho Road, Rickman to Broadway, Moeur Road to County Line Road then to Meridian Road and the Lost Dutchman Gold Route (Highway 60) to the Old West Highway. Transmission Road became University Road and then finally changed to Lost Dutchman Blvd.

Some years ago it was stated that our community could have been called Youngsberg Junction instead of Apache Junction. Young was a politician, mine owner and once mayor of Phoenix. Apache Junction’s namesake was established some eighty-two years ago because of a family’s determination not to have another Arizona community named after a politician.

Oh, yes it is all about who wants to change a name and why. Here today and gone tomorrow sometimes becomes the philosophy of development with little regard to historical landmarks or sites. Many of the subdivisions in this valley have been built over the ruins of Hohokam pueblos and villages. These village names and locations are lost in time. Isn’t this also true throughout Europe and the Asian Minor?

Place names can be a lot of fun to play with and research. Finding reasons why there are changes is also very challenging. Some years ago an old cowboy told me, “Son don’t worry about name changes [too] much, ’cause those fellows down the trail won’t care anyway, they will just rename it to suit themselves anyway.”