14 of the Most Depressing Place Names in North America

A view of Point No Point
A view of Point No Point
I Bird 2, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)

Usually, town founders opt to name a place after something pleasant—two of the most common place names in America are Springfield and Fairview, and sites named for the founding fathers are also pretty common. However, some settlers and explorers called it like they saw it, naming places either for their gloomy topography or the disturbing events that took place there. Below are some of the place names most likely to get a shoutout in a Morrissey song.

1. Point No Point, Washington 

Named in the 1840s by Commander Charles Wilkes, who led the famed U.S. Exploring Expedition (a.k.a. the U.S. Ex. Ex.), the first major voyage of exploration sponsored by the U.S. government. Wilkes either named the place after a Point No Point on the Hudson River, or because it looked like a much less impressive point up close than it did out at sea. The local Native Americans called the area Hahd-skus, or long nose. 

2. Dismal, North Carolina 

The story behind this toponym is unclear, but it may have something to do with the Great Dismal Swamp a few hours to the northeast. More than just William Gibson’s Twitter handle, the Great Dismal is an extensive marshland named by Colonel William Byrd of Virginia, who surveyed the region in 1728. Byrd called the swamp a “vast body of mire and nastiness … very unwholesome for the Bordering inhabitants.” Settlers avoided the area (rumor had it the swamp’s mists carried diseases, and predators such as panthers lurked in its depths), but colonies of escaped slaves, possibly as many as 50,000, made their homes in the swamp in the years before the Civil War. 

3. Boring, Maryland 

romana klee, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

An incorporated community of only about 40 houses in Baltimore County, Boring is best known for its name (frankly, there’s not much else going on). The town can thank 19th-century postmaster David Boring for its moniker; before that, it was named Fairview, which in itself is pretty boring.

By contrast, Boring, Oregon, has a little bit more happening within its borders. The town boasts approximately 8000 residents and has an annual celebration with its sister city, Dull, Scotland.

4. Misery Bay, Michigan 

Fed by the Misery River, the reasons behind both the river’s and bay’s names are unclear, although one version says that the settlers there were miserable because they had trouble receiving supplies. Another origin story says the place is named for the Misery Indians, a branch of the Chippewa or Ojibway tribe. Incidentally, Nine Men's Misery is a site in Rhode Island where a group of soldiers are said to have been tortured and killed by Native Americans during King Philip’s War in 1676. Cheery!

5. Tombstone, Arizona 

In the 1870s, soldiers told prospector Edward Schieffelin that the only thing he would find in this part of southeast Arizona was his own tombstone (plus some Indians). They were wrong—Schieffelin discovered rich veins of silver in the area, which became one of the frontier's wealthiest and most lawless. (It was the later the site of the gunfight at the OK Corral.) Schieffelin named his first mining claim "The Tombstone."

6. Cape Disappointment, Washington 

cmh2315fl, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

At the extreme southwest corner of Washington state, this cape may have been named after John Meares, an English fur trader who was, well, disappointed after he narrowly missed the entrance to the Columbia River. Poor guy. 

7. Skull Island, Washington 

There are several Skull Islands in the country, but only the one in Washington is located inside Massacre Bay. The place was named for the skulls and bones left after the 1858 massacre of local Native Americans by the Haidah tribe out of northwest British Columbia. 

8. Little Hope, Texas 

There’s a Little Hope in Texas and in Wisconsin, and the reasons behind both place names are obscure. The Texas town may have been named for an early local church called Little Hope, whose own name expresses the opinion settlers held about its survival. 

9. Dead Horse Bay, New York 

Named in the mid-19th century for the dozens of horse-rendering plants that surrounded the beach, where the carcasses of New York City carriage horses and other animals were manufactured into glue. Today chopped-up chunks of weathered horse bones still wash up on the beach, which is also covered in shards of glass bottles and china, cosmetics containers, and children’s toys, all dating back to when the area also served as a garbage dump.

10. Shades of Death Road, New Jersey

No one knows how this road in Warren County got its name, although accounts seem to agree it was once called "The Shades" until things around there got gruesome. The "Death" portion may have been tacked on as a tribute to a band of murderous outlaws who hid in the area, or after a malaria outbreak caused by local mosquitoes (although the first option is way more dramatic). 

11. Leg-in-Boot Square, Vancouver, British Columbia 

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. This place was named for an actual severed leg in a boot that washed up in Vancouver’s False Creek in 1887. The police stuck the leg on a pole in front of their headquarters, hoping someone would claim it, but surprise: no one ever did. 

12. Murder Island, Nova Scotia 

Legend has it that French explorers discovered this island strewn with human bones, the remnants of a massacre of two Native American tribes who fought each other while looking for purported buried treasure. Another story has it that the island received its name in 1735 after the brig Baltimore was discovered spattered in blood and deserted except for a single woman, who babbled confusing stories of a convict revolt or other uprising, none of which were ever substantiated. 

13. Funeral Range 

It's not clear why Funeral Range, in the Nahanni National Park Reserve, in the Northwest Territories, Canada, got its name, but it’s far from the only sinister-sounding tag in the region—there's also Hell's Gate, Deadman Valley, Broken Skull River and Headless Creek (named after several prospectors who were found, with their heads nearby, in 1908). These bizarre names abound possibly because of a preponderance of Native American legends about strange happenings in the area. 

14. Death Valley 

This place received its ominous designation from a group of pioneers lost there in the winter of 1849-1850. (Only one of the “Lost ’49ers” actually died there, but they all assumed they would.) According to the National Park Service, the naming happened like this: "As the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said 'goodbye, Death Valley.'" 

The name inspired other local labels: the valley also contains the Funeral Mountains (its highest point is Skeleton Peak), Coffin Canyon, and Devil's Golf Course, so named because “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.” Not ones to be left behind, Nevada's nearby Specter Range, Skeleton Hills, and Skull Mountain are also thought to have been named to complement the Death Valley tags.

We’re Lovin’ the McSki, Sweden’s Ski-Thru McDonald’s

Per-Olof Forsberg, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Per-Olof Forsberg, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Gliding down the slopes for a few hours can leave you happily exhausted and so ravenous that you wish you could stuff a big, juicy burger in your mouth before you even get back to the lodge. At one Swedish ski resort, you can.

Lindvallen, a ski resort located approximately 200 miles northwest of Stockholm, is home to the McSki, a quaint, wood-paneled McDonald’s that you simply ski right up to. If all the surrounding snow leaves you with a hankering for a McFlurry, have at it; Delish reports that you can order anything from the regular McDonald’s menu. (Having said that, we can’t promise the McFlurry machine will actually be working.)

The ski-thru window is ideal for skiers and snowboarders who don’t want to break for a lengthy lunch, but there’s an option for people who would rather not scarf down a combo meal while standing up: According to the blog Messy Nessy, the indoor seating area can accommodate up to 140 people.

The McSki has been delighting (and nourishing) vacationers since it opened in 1996, and it’s definitely a must-visit for ski lovers and fast food aficionados alike. It’s not, however, the strangest McDonald’s restaurant in the world. New Zealand built one inside an airplane, and there’s also a giant Happy Meal-shaped McDonald’s in Dallas. Explore 10 other downright bizarre McDonald’s locations here.

[h/t Delish]

More Than 100 National Parks Are Waiving Fees on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

noblige, iStock via Getty Images
noblige, iStock via Getty Images

The National Park Service is hosting five "free days" in 2020—the first of which lands on January 20. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the NPS is waiving its regular entrance fees at 110 national park properties around the country, USA Today reports.

Of the 400-plus parks managed by the agency, 110 charge admission fees ranging from $5 to $35. These include some of the most popular sites in the system, like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon national parks.

Every one of those parks will be free to visit on Monday. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a day of service, and parks across the U.S. will be hosting service projects for volunteers looking to give back to their communities. If you'd like to participate, you can find volunteer opportunities at your local NPS property here.

If you're just looking for a place to reflect, you can't go wrong with any of the sites in the national park system. Before planning a visit to one the parks below participating in the free day, read up on these facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here are the National Parks that will be free on January 20, 2020:

  • Acadia National Park, Maine
  • Adams National Historical Park, Massachusetts
  • Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland
  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland/Virginia
  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  • Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  • Cabrillo National Monument, California
  • Canaveral National Seashore, Florida
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  • Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
  • Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument, New Mexico
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  • Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, Florida
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
  • Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland/West Virginia/Washington, D.C.
  • Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia
  • Christiansted National Historic Site, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia
  • Colorado National Monument, Colorado
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
  • Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia
  • Death Valley National Park, California
  • Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
  • Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
  • Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
  • Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
  • Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York
  • Everglades National Park, Florida
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado
  • Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas
  • Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Maryland
  • Fort Pulaski National Monument, Georgia
  • Fort Smith National Historic Site, Arkansas
  • Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, South Carolina
  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Oregon/Washington
  • Fort Washington Park, Maryland
  • Gateway Arch National Park (formerly Jefferson National Expansion Memorial), Missouri
  • Great Falls Park, Virginia
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah/Arizona
  • Golden Spike National Historical Park, Utah
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida/Mississippi
  • Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia/Virginia/Maryland
  • Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
  • Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York
  • Hovenweep National Monument, Colorado/Utah
  • Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  • James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Ohio
  • Joshua Tree National Park, California
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Georgia
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada/Arizona
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
  • Lava Beds National Monument, California
  • Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Oregon/Washington
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
  • Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  • Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona
  • Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  • Muir Woods National Monument, California
  • Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona
  • Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
  • Pea Ridge National Military Park, Arkansas
  • Perry's Victory & International Peace Memorial, Ohio
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  • Pinnacles National Park, California
  • Pipe Spring National Monument, Arizona
  • Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota
  • Prince William Forest Park, Virginia
  • Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, New York
  • Saguaro National Park, Arizona
  • Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, New Hampshire
  • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, California
  • San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California
  • Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan
  • Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  • Thomas Edison National Historical Park, New Jersey
  • Tonto National Monument, Arizona
  • Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona
  • Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona
  • Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico
  • Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, New York
  • Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi/Louisiana
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument, Arizona
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California
  • White Sands National Park, New Mexico
  • Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Missouri
  • Wright Brothers National Memorial, North Carolina
  • Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Idaho/Montana
  • Yosemite National Park, California
  • Zion National Park, Utah

[h/t USA Today]

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