Grant Area Natural Highlights, Page 5

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The waters of Isa Lake at the summit of Craig's Pass flow into both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.

Isa Lake

Hiram Chittenden of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers claimed to have discovered this lake on the Continental Divide at Craig Pass in 1891. Chittenden, who built many early roads in Yellowstone, was searching for a practicable route to locate his new road between Old Faithful and West Thumb. It was not until 1893 that Northern Pacific Railroad (NPRR) officials named the lake for Isabel Jelke of Cincinnati. Little is known about Jelke or about her relationship to Chittenden, the NPRR, and Yellowstone.

Chittenden's 1916 poetic tribute to the lake and his discovery includes the puzzling line: "Thou hast no name; pray, wilt thou deign to bear/The name of her who first has sung of thee" (Verse, p. 53). Perhaps Isabel Jelke was already associated with the lake when Chittenden "discovered" it. Isa Lake is noteworthy as probably the only lake on earth that drains naturally to two oceans backwards, the east side draining to the Pacific and the west side to the Atlantic.

The Continental Divide at Craig's Pass

Craig Pass

Craig Pass, at 8,262 feet on the Continental Divide, is about eight miles east of Old Faithful on the Grand Loop Road. In 1891, road engineer Captain Hiram Chittenden discovered Craig Pass while he was surveying for the first road between Old Faithful and West Thumb. It was probably Chittenden who named the pass for Ida M. Craig (Wilcox), "the first tourist to cross the pass" on Chittenden's new road, on about September 10, 1891. At the time that her name was given to the pass, Ida Wilcox (1847-1930) had been married 24 years. So why did Chittenden use her maiden name? Perhaps it was to honor her singularly for being the first tourist to cross the pass. It is also possible that through his connection with the military, Chittenden knew her father (Gen. James Craig) or her brother (Malin Craig, Sr.) and was really honoring the Craig family.

DeLacy Creek

DeLacy Creek flows south from DeLacy Lakes to Shoshone Lake. Park Superintendent P.W. Norris named the creek in 1881 for Walter Washington DeLacy (1819-1892), the leader of a prospecting expedition that passed through the Yellowstone region in 1863. DeLacy, a surveyor and engineer, compiled the first accurate map of the Yellowstone area in 1865.

In 1863, DeLacy led a group of prospectors from Jackson Hole across the Pitchstone Plateau and discovered Shoshone Lake, which he named "DeLacy's Lake." He was the first to note the "strange" drainage of that lake south to the Snake River rather than west to the Madison River. But he did not publish his discoveries until 1876, which kept him from receiving credit for being the man who discovered Yellowstone and from leaving his name on present-day Shoshone Lake.

DeLacy also recognized the importance of Yellowstone's thermal features. In a published letter in 1869, he wrote: "At the head of the South Snake, and also on the south fork of the Madison [present-day Shoshone Lake and Firehole River], there are hundreds of hot springs, many of which are 'geysers'" (Raymond, "Mineral Resources," p. 142). In 1871, Hayden changed the name of "DeLacy's Lake" to "Madison Lake." In 1872, Frank Bradley criticized DeLacy for the "numerous errors" on his map and named the lake Shoshone.

Park Superintendent P.W. Norris felt sorry for DeLacy and named the present stream for him in 1881, stating:

The...narrative, the high character of its writer [DeLacy], his mainly correct descriptions of the region visited, and the traces which I have found of this party [campsite remains, etc.], proves alike its entire truthfulness, and the injustice of changing the name of De Lacy's Lake [to Shoshone Lake]; and fearing it is now too late to restore the proper name to it, I have, as a small token of deserved justice, named the stream and Park crossed by our trail above the Shoshone Lake after their discoverer (Fifth Annual Report, p. 44).

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