Kit Carson Peak Name Change

Colorado’s Kit Carson Peak Faces Possible Renaming Amid Contested Legacy

DENVER, COLORADO – The name of Kit Carson, an Army officer with a controversial history, currently adorns Kit Carson Peak, a class-three fourteener in Southern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo range. This historical figure, known for his role in the violent campaigns against Navajo and Apache tribes in the 1800s, is at the center of a recent proposal to change the mountain’s name to something less divisive.

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board is considering the new name “Frustum Peak,” a geometric term for a flat-topped cone or pyramid. However, board member Dr. William Wei feels the proposed name lacks resonance and has suggested it be a placeholder until a more suitable moniker can be found—one that might honor a significant person or event.

This consideration follows the support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Navajo Nation for a name change, although no specific endorsement of “Frustum Peak” has been made. The complex geography of the area has caused confusion in the past, contributing to the debate on whether “Kit Carson Mountain” refers to a range, ridge, or a single point. 

This confusion, highlighted by Jennifer Runyon of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, underscores the need for additional research, which includes reviewing past proposals and local preferences.

Since 1906, the mountain has officially borne Kit Carson’s name, and federal officials have reaffirmed this designation several times, the most recent being in 2011. However, local references to the peak often vary, with some calling it “Crestone Peak,” after adjacent summits in the area.

Southern Colorado 14ers: Kit Carson Peak
Kit Carson Peak from the Willow Lake Basin.

Kit Carson Mountain consists of three peaks: Challenger Point and Columbia Point, both officially named, and a third, currently unnamed peak. The latest proposal from Ryan Clement of Littleton suggests returning to an earlier name, “Frustum Peak,” but this has not found favor with the board, which deems the term inappropriate as a proper name.

During recent meetings, the naming board hinted at submitting their own name suggestions, possibly including “Navajo Peak,” but excluded “Crestone Peak” from the discussion. The ambiguity surrounding the correct nomenclature for the mountain has made it clear that a thorough investigation is necessary before a final decision can be made.

The controversy reflects a broader trend of reevaluating geographic names across Colorado, with several other sites being considered for renaming due to their offensive or inappropriate references. The narrative on the mountain’s name change is ongoing, and the board is expected to revisit the proposal in January, with the backdrop of recent successful renamings, such as Mt. Blue Sky, setting a precedent for change.

The case of Kit Carson Peak encapsulates a national dialogue on how we honor history and whose stories are elevated or reconsidered. With both federal and tribal perspectives at play, the outcome will likely serve as a significant indicator of shifting sentiments towards historical reckoning and inclusivity.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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