What's in a name?

I've always been fascinated with the names of places and the history behind those names. Why is Paris called Paris, and why did somebody in Texas feel the need to use the name again? Why is the big rock in the middle of Australia called Uluru by the native Aboriginals and why did a white guy rename it Ayers Rock in the 19th century? The coastal Everglades is full of fantastically obvious (Mud Lake) and wonderfully enigmatic (Willy Willy) place names and I have bumped into many of them during my research. Here is a list of some of those places and where the names come from (or at least where I think they come from):

1. Shark River: There are sharks in it, though they are not easy to find sometimes.

2. Coot Bay: For many years I had no idea how this bay got its name or what a coot even was, then one day while driving through it early in the morning I saw a flotilla of water birds (at least a couple hundred strong) sitting together on the bay. They turned out to be coots from the genus Fulica. Case closed.
Coots. Photo Credit
3. Whitewater Bay: The name of this bay is obvious to anyone who has ever been there because whenever anything stronger than a light wind picks up, the bay becomes a playground for small to medium-sized waves (called whitecaps). If you look off in the distance on a windy day the water looks like it is completely white, meaning you are in for a bumpy boat ride.

4. Tarpon Bay: There are tarpon in it.

5. Rookery Branch: A highly reticulated branch of the Shark River that used to contain large numbers of wading bird rookeries (breeding sites). Sadly, the bird populations in this area have been greatly diminished by over-hunting and habitat alterations.
Everglades rookery. Photo credit
6. Ponce de Leon Bay: Named for Juan Ponce de Leon, the 16th century Spanish conquistador and first European to set foot in Florida. He was killed in 1521 by the Calusa tribe when they shot him in the leg with an arrow coated with poison from the manchineel tree.
Juan Ponce de Leon. Photo credit
7. Aaron Cut and Derek Cut: These are the names my lab came up with for the Shark River after it forks into two rivers as you head northeast towards Tarpon Bay. On my first day in the Everglades in 2007 my former labmates Derek and Aaron were on the boat with me, and Derek was driving. As we approached the fork, Derek asked Aaron "Which fork should I take?" Aaron said "Well, they both pretty much go to the same place, but the one on the left is wider and straighter, while the one on the right is narrower and much curvier. I prefer the left fork." Derek promptly took the right fork.

8. Flamingo: This park ranger station used to be an outpost settlement that ferried supplies to the Keys. It also used to be a rest stop for migrating flamingos. Now it's just the mosquito capital of the United States.

9. Pa-Hay-Okee: Seminole name for the Everglades, meaning "grassy water."

10. Harney River: Named after Colonel William Harney, who led American soldiers into battle against the Seminoles during the 19th century.

11. Gunboat Island: Small island in the Shark River shaped sort of like a gunboat. A little bit of a stretch.

12. Lard Can: Apparently the name of this campsite is derived from the habit of early gladesmen (alligator hunters, moonshiners, bird hunters) storing food and water supplies in empty 5 gallon lard cans at this site. Now I want to know what water with a hint of lard tastes like. Probably like watery lard.
Lard Can campsite. Photo credit
If anybody thinks any of this information is wrong, please post corrections in the comments.


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