It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue: Colt Killed Creek.
But that new name for White Sand Creek is likely to make people curious about the name’s origin, which is why Lalia Boone - the matriarch of Idaho place names - lobbied for the change.
It was granted back in 1988. But “Colt Killed” has yet to appear on a government map.
The Idaho creek actually is a small river located south of U.S. Highway 12 near the Montana state line. It’s sparkling, swift and about as wild as rivers come these days.
Back in September 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived there. The explorers were hungry, miserable with dysentery. They found no elk, no deer. So they ate one of their horses.
Capt. William Clark dubbed the river “Colt Killed.” But when expedition maps were reprinted in atlas form, the names of smaller streams were left out. The creek was dubbed “White Sand” on the General Land Office map printed in 1907, which also happens to be the year Lalia Boone was born.
Boone was a retired professor in 1986 when she pleaded with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names “to restore the name bestowed by Lewis and Clark as part of the preparation for the Lewis-Clark Memorial Trail Bicentennial Celebration, 2005.”
“We have lost sight of the great effort and suffering that went into this expedition,” she wrote. “The name ‘Colt Killed’ would carry a small portion of the accurate picture.”
Boone since has died, but she left a legacy. Although she taught English at the University of Idaho, Boone had a passion for history. She wrote the 413-page book, “Idaho Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary,” and “From A to Z in Latah County.”
“She sent a whole ream of grad students out to do research,” said university librarian Dennis Baird. The students produced another 10 or 12 reports on county place names.
When Boone decided to fight for Colt Killed Creek, she sought the support of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Foundation. Jim Fazio, past president of that group, is tickled that her effort paid off.
“We think there are many cases where Lewis and Clark named features and the names were changed or didn’t stick. It’s nice to see one that’s going back to the original.”
A sign behind the Powell ranger station marks the historic visit, he noted. “Lewis and Clark grazed horses on an island there. You know that’s exactly where they were that night.”
After the creek’s name had been changed to Colt Killed, Fazio left the area for a while. When he returned, he wondered if the change had made its way onto maps.
It hadn’t. So he asked the U.S. Forest Service about it in January.
Dennis Elliott, resource assistant at the Powell Ranger District, said last week that “Colt Killed” will appear for the first time on topographic maps.
But the more commonly used forest visitor maps won’t be updated until 1998.
The new name also will show up before that on the most common map in the state.
White Sand Creek is big enough to merit a spot on the Idaho highway map. Although the state Transportation Department annually asks the Forest Service if any changes are necessary, department spokesman Jeff Stratten said, “no one has advised us of this.”
The U.S. Geological Survey sends the state a booklet filled with name changes each year, but the mention of White Sand somehow got past the map makers.
After he learned about the change from a reporter, Stratten said “Colt Killed Creek” will be on the 1996 map, “without a doubt.”