John Denver: Petition to name Mt. Sopris peak for him collects over 1,600 signatures & counting

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In an April post about the John Denver Tribute Concert and Colorado Hall of Fame Induction, I conceded that JD's music triggers my gag reflex. But others feel differently about the late Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., including J.P. McDaniel, the Littleton resident behind a petition to name the east peak of Mount Sopris for him. And her quest seems to be gaining traction.

McDaniel, a college professor, tells the Aspen Times that the naming is meant as a hat-tip to Denver's environmentalism, not his long-ago hit ditties. She notes that Denver wrote "Rocky Mountain High," one of Colorado's official state songs, at Williams Lake, near Mount Sopris. And not only is the peak she's targeting visible from the Windstar Land Conservancy, one of Denver's legacies, but it doesn't even have an official name. So why not his?

The list of folks signing the online petition making this argument continues to grow. When I started writing this post, the total stood at 1,667 -- and when I checked seconds ago, it stood at 1,687. Here's the text of the petition:

To: U.S. Board on Geographic Names Support for the naming of "John Denver Peak"

Naming a geographic feature after a significant person is a way of honoring an individual for their contributions to others, with commemorative naming providing a continued remembrance of their important accomplishments.

John Denver contributed much to enrich many lives. His timeless music brings enjoyment to people worldwide; his numerous humanitarian projects continue to bring about positive changes; and his passionate environmental and conservation efforts remain significant.

Naming a peak in his beloved Colorado Rocky Mountains after John Denver is long overdue. Therefore, it is being formally proposed to the Executive Secretary for Domestic Geographic Names, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, and the U.S. Secretary of Interior that the unnamed east peak of Mount Sopris be formally named "John Denver Peak." The peak is located in the Maroon Bells -- Snowmass Wilderness area in Pitkin County, Colorado. This peak is 12,965 feet in elevation, and is near Williams Lake where John composed the Colorado state song Rocky Mountain High, and also overlooks John's preserved Windstar Land Conservancy. This name will be used for all federal maps and publications.

Naming a geographic feature is a complicated effort that must follow a strict process of principles, policies, and procedures with local, state, and federal approval. Preparation for this name proposal began almost two years ago and has now reached the stage for public support.

Criteria summary for naming a geographic feature to commemorate an individual includes:

• Must be previously unnamed.
• Cannot be named after a living person. Person must be deceased for at least 5 years.
• Name should be short and easily pronounced.
• Suggested by local history.
• Must contain evidence of local support for the proposed name and its application (petitions, letters, newspaper articles, signatures).
• Approval must be obtained from local governing bodies.
• Determined to be in public interest to honor the person for historical or commemorative reasons.
• Person must have an outstanding national and international reputation.
• Person must have a direct and long-term association with the feature or a significant contribution to the area or state in which it is located.
• Person must have played a large part in protecting the land for public benefit.

The naming of "John Denver Peak" on Mount Sopris meets each of these criteria.

We, the undersigned, support the naming of John Denver Peak on the east side of Mount Sopris in Pitkin County, Colorado. This signature will become part of a formal proposal sent to state and federal agencies in May 2011.


The Undersigned

To see the current signatures, click here.

More from our Comment of the Day archive: "Reader: John Denver was a Colorado treasure, and anyone who disagrees is an idiot."

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Skysketcher1   (Dan)
Skysketcher1 (Dan)

While he was here, among us, "St. John" was a wonderful force for good, and was able to accomplish much!   Instead of Mount Sopris, I would prefer to see Mount Evans, the highest road in the United States, open to the public, at 14,000 ft., be renamed in John Denver,s Honor!


I grew up at the base of Sopris 42 years ago (at 6 months old my parents moved from Denver to Carbondale) and my family and I all LOVE that amazing twin peaked mountain.  We've all since moved away from the area, although most still in Colorado, I would be sad to see the name change.  East/ is all a part of Sopris to me. It is where we hiked, camped and lived.  I can imagine how many of the people who have lived (and live there now) must feel about the idea of changing the name. To me the twin Peaks of Sopris are already named. Others have said there are plenty of unnamed mountains in the state so if they feel so strongly about naming a mountain after John Denver I'd prefer they name one of them.  Check out this interesting post by Lou

Many people have fallen in love with Mount Sopris as they've driven by or grown up under it.  I would recommend those wishing to change the name, live by it. Experience the environment, the wonder of the mountain, the warmth of the community and then tell me after years of calling it Sopris if they'd want to change it.  Do you really think John Denver would want to change it? He called it Sopris for years, too.....

Tracy Strode
Tracy Strode

I'll bet my entire bank account that there isn't a single person who's signed that petition who has EVER lived within viewing distance of Mt Sopris.  Apparently this lady is on the same drugs as John Denver was......

ZG native
ZG native

I am a john Denver music fan, but to rename Mt. Sopris after him is short sighted.  Has McDaniel bothered to find out who Mt. Sopris is named after? Obviously not.  Emma Sopris was the first school teacher to come to serve the Roaring Fork Valley.  The residents saw fit to honor her by naming the most prominent mountain in the valley for her.  The town of Emma is also named for her.  Now a days we name our large monuments for corrupt politicans and corporations.  May be we should consider leaving the very rare and unique alone: a monument to a simple school teacher.  And maybe question what we should really value from the people who contrribute to our society.  Pop entertainer or the exeptional person who educates our society?


I agree with Jude, John Denver was a second home owner in Aspen- you can't even see Mt. Sopris from there. As a third generation Roaring Fork Valley native, my impression of HenryJohn Deutschendorf, Jr. is that of a terrible drunk driver and I don't want the mountain that I look at every day named for him. Besides, it's already named for some other dead white guy.


John Denver was a cocaine addict who once told TV Guide that the highlight of his week was mowing his Starwood lawn in the nude.  I hate this idea.  Hate it.  I'm a 4th generation native of Garfield County.  Leave our mountain alone.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Very interesting post, Cathy. Thanks for weighing in.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks, jgracie. We're going to combine your post with Jude's on an upcoming Comment of the Day. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts.


How negative you are, and just what great things have you done for the planet, lately?

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong take, Jude. We're going to combine your post and jgracie's for an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats.

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