Many years ago, when I was an inappropriate middle-schooler, I would giggle as the family car would pass signs for Humptulips on road trips around the Olympic Peninsula. The images of flowers being violated would enter my head, and as the day-dream/flora nightmare continued, I would see a judge sending people way from the Netherlands for crimes against plants. The people getting involved romantically with the flowers were sentenced to life in America, forever forced to live in a town that described their crime. While vulgar, I challenge you to think of a different place-name origin story. While I am older and supposedly wiser, I still thought that my story could be true, that is, until I looked into the truth.
I think we can all agree that my origin story described above is false. However, the true origin is somewhat unknown. According to a city of Humptulips website, “The river and a town on its banks derive their names from an Native-American term meaning ‘chilly region.’” The only website for the city later goes on to say that “some sources indicate that the translation is “hard to pole” – with either term appropriately fitting the river.”
Two things about this before I get into which one is most correct.
First of all, what is the city of Humptulips doing with a website. I mean, sure you have something like 13 residents (actual number: 255), but do you really need a page on a “Best Places to Live” website? Link: http://www.bestplaces.net/city/washington/humptulips
Secondly, if the city name really means “Hard to pole” then the jokes need to continue. Actually, that term in regards to traveling along the river makes sense, as the river is lined with downed trees and sandbars, making travel difficult if you are using poles to maneuver.
If the name means “Hard to Pole”, that demonstrates the ruggedness of the Olympic Peninsula. It shows that despite thousands of years of residency, the native tribes had difficulty exploiting this river for trade and fishing purposes. This could very well be the true meaning, as even today, the river yields very little and population is sparse at best. Had this river been more navigable, it would more than likely be more dense and popular.
If “Chilly Region” is the true meaning of the word in the local first-people dialect, then again, they named it correctly. It is a wet, nasty, cold, windy area 11 months out of the year. Just south of the rainforest, and a few miles from the blustery Washington State coast, Humptulips is an area for the hearty settler. Those who don’t mind grey sky, over a hundred inches of rain a year and an average yearly temperature of 49 degrees Fahrenheit will feel right at home along the muddy, cold isolated banks of the Humptulips River.
Either way, Humptulips has nothing to do with people who love flowers a bit too much. The Humptulips region is beautiful, remote and above all else, one of a kind. In both name and landscape, the region is unique. Within hours of Seattle and Portland, but mere minutes from the beauty of the Hoh Rainforest, Lake Quinault, Enchanted Valley and the Pacific Ocean, Humptulips can have a silly sounding name. It doesn’t matter what it is called; it could be called Rose-Kisser or Rhododendron-Thruster, but it wouldn’t change the fact that Humptulips is a beautiful place. Next time you drive by, feel free to giggle and laugh at the name, but know that this area, with so much history is one of the last of the untouched areas in the country.
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