Get Out: Beauty Park mystery

By on January 2, 2013

Beauty Park in a warmer season. Why and how was it named? by Jake Nichols.

What’s in a name? And who cares when you’re zipping along at 70 mph on the Continental Divide trail? In recounting what I’d hoped would be at least a cause for pause for bubbleheads playing in the powder on Togwotee Pass, I became fascinated with the place named “Beauty Park.” OK, “obsessed” might be more accurate.
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For readers not familiar with the place – and don’t feel bad if you aren’t; no one I asked had heard of it – it is a non-descript creek running north-south taking runoff from Tripod Peak into North Fork Fish Creek. Hardscrabble Creek does the same, just to the west; Red Creek as well. In fact, this region which is seven miles due south of Togwotee Pass is such a creek-laden area it gets to be a boggy, marshy meadow kind of place every spring. For creeks, there’s Hereford, Moccasin, Calf, Papoose, Squaw, Cavy, Bull, Packsaddle, Larkspur, Pill, Mountain, Open Fork, and one unnamed – plus the aforementioned Hardscrabble, Beauty Park, and Red creeks. It’s nuts.

I first became acquainted with the area exactly 10 years ago on New Year’s Day. I was stuck in deep snow and nearly out of oil on my sled somewhere on the snowmobile T trail near Pilot’s Knob. Minutes before becoming stuck I had come up on a lone moose in Beauty Park. It was a sight. Her attitude suggested I go around. I did, and got stuck.

I checked my GPS while on a shoveling break and it said I was in Beauty Park. “I’ll be danged,” I thought. What a name. It was pretty but no more beautiful, really, than any of the country surrounding it. “Beauty Park,” near as I can tell from several different quads, is a small clearing, a mini-meadow of sorts. It takes its name, no doubt, from Beauty Park Creek, which pools up in this meadow area where Spruce Creek Trail (106) cuts through.

It’s a beautiful clearing, indeed, amongst so many zig-zagging drainages, but it’s no more picturesque and certainly not more prominent than say nearby Moccasin Basin or Sheridan Basin. Why name this creek “Beauty Creek” and how did the creek’s name eventually become more prominent than the stream itself until people (usually snowmachiners) and maps began referring to the drainage simply as “Beauty Creek?” I had to know.

A USGS database has a Flagstaff-Beauty Creek Road listed. It was built by the Oil Exploration Company in 1946 and exists today on maps as a rugged jeep trail, closed by the Forest Service. It one day spanned the 20 miles between Flagstaff Creek (off Spread Creek) and the Beauty Park-N. Fork Fish creek confluence.

I could find no further information.

Backcountry features like creeks, lakes or peaks have mostly predictable names. Obviously names like Elk Creek or Deer Creek refer to the game first or most often spotted there. Grizzly Lake in the Gros Ventre probably didn’t get its name because early explorers found lots of snowshoe rabbits there, and I wouldn’t be too eager to drink a bellyful of water from Poison Creek.
Then there is another class of namedropping which I personally like. These are the name of places that tell a story in and of themselves – places like Dead Horse Creek and Crazy Woman Mountain. I can just imagine the tales that prompted names like that.

But for the most part even the odder sounding names of places in the forest are repeated in every forest in every state and throughout the land. There’s a Spring Gulch everywhere and a Green Mountain on just about any 1:100,000-scale map in America. But there is only one Beauty Park Creek as far as I can tell.

And no one, as yet, can tell me how it got its name.

Photo: Beauty Park in a warmer season. Why and how was it named? by Jake Nichols.

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