Board Approves Naming Proposal Honoring Okanogan County Newspaper Columnis
News Date: 
May 14, 2024

North Cascades creek will be named after “Exploring the Okanogan” writer Elizabeth Widel

The Washington State Board of Natural Resources has approved a recommendation by the Committee on Geographic Names to name a previously unnamed creek after an Okanogan County resident and newspaper columnist. The change was formally adopted at the Board’s regular meeting on May 14, 2024.
The name commemorates Elizabeth (Barta) Widel, who wrote a newspaper column, "Exploring the Okanogan," starting in 1957.  Widel produced over 3000 weekly columns in the Omak Chronicle, often including geographic features in her articles. In 2015, Widel wrote a column highlighting a waterfall she had visited many times on an "unnamed creek" at milepost 143 in Skagit and Whatcom Counties.
The newly-named Elizabeth Creek, a 2.5-mile long stream, begins in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest north of Gabriel Peak and flows northeast to enter Granite Creek. The creek is located in the heart of the rugged North Cascades Mountains and was mostly inaccessible until the completion of the North Cascades Highway in 1972.  The creek was historically used by Native Americans, miners, surveyors, and explorers who passed through the Granite Creek valley heading east through the mountains. The creek is now crossed by U.S. Highway 20 and is viewed by countless travelers as they navigate the scenic byway.
Elizabeth (Barta) Widel was born in Chicago in 1917. She worked as a high school teacher in Brewster, Washington, in 1944-46. She returned to Okanogan County permanently in 1954 to marry Glen Widel and began working for the Omak Chronicle as a Linotype operator.
Glenn and Elizabeth began a weekly Chronicle newspaper column on May 9, 1957, entitled "Exploring the Okanogan,” featuring photos, descriptions, and reflections of local scenic, geologic, historical, or cultural features they loved. Elizabeth continued publishing the column until her passing on October 24, 2017, at age 100. Elizabeth especially loved the North Cascades and featured sights along the North Cascades right of way numerous times. Her August 25, 2016, column highlighted a waterfall she noted as “an impressive cascade on an "unnamed creek" at milepost 143. This creek will now be named “Elizabeth Creek” to honor her legacy.
Web Links
Detailed information on all initial and final proposals, including maps, historical data, and supporting documentation, can be found on the Board of Natural Resources page under the meeting date. Information on the policies and procedures of the Committee can be found in the same location.
About the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names
The Committee meets at least twice annually and assists the Board of Natural Resources in approving official names for Washington state geographic features. It comprises a representative of the Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz, a representative of the State Librarian, the director of the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, a representative of Washington state tribes, and three members of the public.
Ryan Rodruck
Communications Manager
Cell: 360-584-3916