How the Peaks Got Their Names

The name of the mountain range that runs through this region is fairly self-explanatory; the jagged peaks resemble the sharp, crooked teeth of a saw blade. The Sawtooth Mountains run 43 miles long and 25 miles wide, covering 678 square miles. Within this range, there are 57 peaks that are over 10,000 feet high, and 77 peaks that are between 9,000 and 10,000 feet high. That’s a lot of peaks! Some are more famous than others, such as Mt. Heyburn, whose characteristic jagged mountaintop is a great example of the namesake of this range. Thompson Peak is famously the tallest mountain in this range, and some may wonder who made such an impact in this area to earn the honor of having the most prominent peak named after them. As it turns out, the names of many of the peaks have some truly fascinating backstories! The town of Stanley itself is named after Captain John Stanley who was the oldest member of the prospecting party to first enter what is now the Stanley Basin in 1863.

Thompson Peak is the tallest peak in the Sawtooth Wilderness at 10,751 feet and is named after John Thompson, one of the first ranchers and homesteaders in the area. John had a 160-acre ranch in the Valley where he settled in the late 1800s. By the time he officially owned the land in 1917, the size of his ranch had grown to 480 acres, not including the 103 acres where his house was built. In 1937, at age 73, John decided to sell a large portion of his land and begin leading guides for packers and hunters in the Sawtooth Mountains. John and his wife, Josephine, gained a reputation in the area for being extremely pleasant and hospitable hosts and guides to the tourists and hunters that visited them. Unfortunately, John passed away just three years later. Josephine lived to be 99 and was laid to rest next to her husband in 1974 in the Hailey cemetery.

Horton Peak is named after William (Bill) Horton who was the first Forest Ranger at the Pole Creek Ranger Station around 1909. Bill was left as an orphan at a young age in the Stanley area when his father left the area for what was meant to be a short period of time, but unfortunately fell ill and died, never returning to his son. Bill himself built the Pole Creek Ranger Station when he started working full time for the Forest Service in the early 1900s. According to legend, Bill trapped the largest bear to have ever been caught in this region of the country.

Horstman Peak is named after Berrhard Deiderich (a.k.a. Dick) Horstmann, an early German resident of the Sawtooth Valley. Dick earned a reputation in the Valley of being notably untidy, while also being extremely hospitable to anyone who visited. Around 1920, Dick built a cabin on Redfish Lake and rented boats to fishermen. The cabin was eventually transformed into a two-story building, known now as the Redfish Lodge.

The McGown family (specifically the brothers George and Arthur Sr., also known as Tuff) were a well-known family that were in the area before 1900. McGown Peak, which can be seen from Stanley Lake, is named after this famous family. The book Stanley-Sawtooth Country by Esther Yarber was written with the assistance of Edna McGown, who was the wife of Tuff McGown and born on Nip and Tuck Mountain.

Mt. Heyburn is named after Weldon Heyburn, a United States Senator from 1903 until his death in 1912. During his political career, he opposed the idea of national forests that was presented by Gifford Pinchot because he didn’t agree with the federal government having control over such large areas of land in the western portion of the country. The peak is ironically named after him because he was so actively against turning the land into what it exists as today.

Langer Peak is named after Charley Langer who maintained a good reputation as a Forest Ranger in the Stanley District. Previously this mountain was known as Ruffneck Peak until Langer’s untimely death in 1943 when his airplane crashed into this very mountain.

Ray Decker, who Decker Peak is named after, was the first to live on Decker Flat with his family in a cabin he built before 1900.

McDonald Peak is named after James McDonald, who was an early land owner in the Pettit Lake area.

Williams Peak is named after Thomas H. Williams, the first known man to scale the jagged Sawtooth Mountains and cross into Payette River country.

The names don’t end here; not even close! There are many more physical features of this area whose names come with an interesting backstory. The original settlers and influential members of this small community will forever be part of the rich history of this hidden Idaho gem.