Why some people argue we should find another name for Gore Range — The Mountain Town News

A May excursion climbing Mt. Powell, the highest peak in the Gore Range. Photo/Allen Best

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Might less Gore be more in north-central Colorado? That’s the proposal from Summit County, where part of the county line is defined by the range of 13,000-foot peaks. It’s called the Gore Range.

There’s a Gore Creek that flows through Vail and then farther north, a Gore Canyon, where the Colorado River thrashes its way through the range, the steepest three or four miles of descent in the river’s 1,450 mile journey. There’s also a crossing, Gore Pass, and a brass plaque is affixed to a granite boulder remembers an Irish baronet after whom all these Gores are named.

The baronet, Sir St. George Gore, traveled to the United States in 1854 and hired Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man and guide, to show him the sights and lead him to rich hunting grounds.

It was an extravagant expedition. His entourage included a valet, an expert at tying flies, a dog-handler, 20 greyhounds and foxhounds, 100 horses, 20 yoke of oxen, and 4 Conestoga wagons, each pulled by 6 mules.

Jeff Mitton, a professor at the University of Colorado, in a 2010 op-ed in the Vail Daily, further noted that Gore had an arsenal of 75 rifles, a dozens shotguns and many pistols.

There were also abundant creature comforts: a carpet, a brass bedstead, a carved marble washstand, and a big bathtub. There were also enough men, 40 altogether, to create the hot water needed to make a bath in the wilderness, a luxury.

If Lord Gore, as he was remembered colloquially, suffered few wilderness discomforts, he caused great pain to the wildlife that came within range of his armory during his three years in the West. He claimed to have killed 2,000 bison, 1,600 deer and elk, and 105 bears.

In his first summer, he ventured as far as today’s Kremmling, but then spent the next two years in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas before returning across the Atlantic Ocean.

Shouldn’t this princely geography be named for somebody more deserving? Or maybe something altogether, perhaps a name given it by the Utes who lived there?

(Although it should be noted that when John Fremont traveled through the Blue River Valley in June 1844, he saw much evidence of Arapahoe Indians, too, and a few miles away, in South Park, turned down an invitation from the Utes to join in a battle with the Arapahoes).

Mitton, in his 2010 op-ed, proposed keeping the same name—but to honor a different Gore, as in the former U.S. vice president named Al, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to heighten public awareness about climate change.

“All that we have to do is to mountain a new plaque on the granite boulder on Gore Pass,” he said.

Now comes the efforts of Summit County resident Leon Joseph Littlebird, who has persuaded county officials to take up the cause.

“It’s one of the most beautiful and spectacular areas we have,” Littlebird recently told the Summit Daily News. “Considering Lord Gore was a pretty bad dude —the stories are really horrible, really scary —it would be great to see it recognized as what it really is, instead of for a guy like that.”

Summit County has adopted a resolution seeking a name change. It has received support from the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, a local group, and the Colorado Mountain Club. A meeting was planned for Monday night to take public input, including ideas on what the range should be named.

The final arbiter in such matters is the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, an agency nested within the U.S. Geological Survey. John Wesley Powell was second director of that agency, from 1891 to 1894. His name lingers on Mt. Powell, which is the range’s highest peak, at 13,586 feet.

From the Associated Press via The Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The rugged mountain underbite in Summit and Eagle counties known as the Gore Range has drawn people to the area for generations, but soon the distinctive 60-mile run of peaks could have a different moniker.

Like Gore Pass, Gore Creek and many other regional spinoffs, the craggy reach — which also touches parts of Grand and Routt counties — is named for a 19th century Irish aristocrat named Lord St. George Gore. Of course, the peaks existed for millennia ahead of the baronet’s first steps on American soil for a hunting expedition in the 1850s.

For roughly 10,000 years and before formal government removal to a Utah reservation in 1879, the Ute tribe, who called themselves the Nuntzi, resided in the valley they referred to as Naa Ohn Kara. Loosely translated, the term means “where blue water meets the sky,” and may have even been the origin of the Blue River’s name.

The native Ute spoke of the Rockies as the Shining Mountains, and if a local group gets its way that’s what they intend to re-label the local range. Summit’s Board of County Commissioners formally supported the change through a recent resolution, and the campaign is gaining steam.

“I am amazed how few people know anything about Lord Gore,” said Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier. “It’s universal in any writing that he was despised by the time he left. He was disdained by all parties, including the natives, the U.S. Cavalry and the mountain men.”

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