Board Approves Naming of Mercer Island Cove for Decorated World War II Veteran
News Date: 
January 4, 2022

New name for San Juan County creek, corrected spelling of canyon in Spokane and Stevens counties also adopted during meeting Tuesday

The Washington State Board of Natural Resources, in its role as the Washington State Board on Geographic Names, approved new names for three features throughout the state during its meeting Tuesday morning, including naming a cove off Mercer Island for a decorated World War II veteran.
These proposals included new names for geographic features in King and San Juan counties, as well as a spelling correction for a canyon that passes through both Stevens and Spokane counties.
The Committee on Geographic Names previously approved the three names during its October 2020 meeting. The approved names will be added to the Washington Administrative Code, and the Board will now pass them along to the United States Board on Geographic Names for federal review.
Riley Cove is the new name for a small bay on the northern coast of Mercer Island. Huston Riley was a lifelong resident of the island, a U.S. Army veteran and the subject of Robert Capa’s famous photo, featured on the cover of Life magazine, of a lone American soldier fighting through the surf during the 1944 D-Day landing at Omaha Beach.
On that day, Riley was one of only two soldiers to make it off his landing craft alive, as it exploded after being hit by German fire shortly before Capa photographed Riley. As he struggled to make it onto the beach, Riley was hit multiple times by machine gun fire, and Capa and others dragged him to safety. Riley was awarded three Purple Hearts over the course of his service during World War II, which included fighting in North Africa and the Battle of the Bulge.  
Rabbit Chase Creek is the new name for a 1.4-mile-long previously unnamed watercourse west of Friday Harbor. This evocative name stems from the many rabbits that congregate around the creek. Locals used to chase the animals to the water’s edge to capture and sell to Seattle meat markets after the 1934 release of thousands of captive rabbits led San Juan Island’s rabbit population to explode into the millions before a significant die-off in 1979.
Barney Kolker Canyon is the new name for what was previously labeled “Barney Coker Canyon,” located just outside of Nine Mile Falls. Kolker was one of the original homesteaders in the area in the 1890s, and the canyon bearing his name has had the erroneous spelling “Coker” since at least 1979. The name change corrects that misspelling.
Web Links
Detailed information on all initial and final proposals, including maps, historical information, and supporting documentation can be found on the Board of Natural Resources page under the About tab on the DNR website. Information on the policies and procedures of the committee can be found in the same location.
Kenny Ocker
Communications Manager
Cell: 360-810-1217