I wonder why Canyon County is called such despite the fact that it has no canyons?
-Benjamin Snyder, Mountain Home
NAMPA - Idaho certainly has its fair share of place names that don't seem to make sense. Mountain Home isn't near the mountains, Lake Fork isn't on a lake and Canyon County has no Canyon or does it?
"Actually it does. It's not a deep deep canyon, but there is."
Wendy Miller would know. She is the Director and Curator of the Canyon County Historical Society Museum.
"No one knows for sure why it's called Canyon County," Miller said.
But she has her hunch.
"There is a canyon between Canyon Hill west of Caldwell and the Boise River," she said. "The pioneers used to come down over the hill, and it's referred to as Canyon Hill."
The river flows between two hills forming a small canyon in the area - which gave name to Canyon Hill. When the county was founded in 1891, Miller thinks they picked the name of the hill as the moniker for the whole area.
"Pretty sure that the hill was referred to by pioneers coming into the area," she said. "It was kind of a landmark to know where they were."
Miller says there's one other possibility.
"The other answer is that between the Snake River Canyon which borders Owyhee County and the Snake River, there's a natural boundary there," she said. "Some refer to that as Snake River Canyon. It divides Canyon and Owyhee County."
Historian Jim McGill notes that Canyon County used to be much different - and included parts of Gem and Payette counties. He says the land area included several small canyons - and may have gotten its name from "a county of canyons."
Miller's museum is working to put together a timeline of events for Canyon County - but getting to the final answer on the name might prove to be elusive.
If you want to learn more about the area, check out the main museum at the old Nampa Train Depot, or at the Indian Creek Museum in Caldwell.