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31D High Point (LO)

Location: San Diego County, California

The name originates from a timber cutting party that was impressed by an abundance of pigeons in the area while seeking lumber for Mission San Luis Rey. They named it "Palomár" which means "pigeon house" (from palóma, or dove).

Palomar is first mentioned in the diseño for the John Warner's Rancho Agua Caliente (1840). The Cauhilla Indians called it "Pompauvo", which they believed was the home of their mist maiden. The Luiseño Indians called it "Paouw" which is believed to simply mean "mountain". It was a summer rancheria for them with plentiful berries, seeds, acorns, deer, and bulbs.

Local pioneers in the late Nineteenth Century called it "Smith Mountain", after Joseph Smith (n.d.) who operated a sheep and cattle ranch here from 1859 (according to Phil Townsend Hanna), or 1868 (according to Lou Stein). Smith met a violent death and is believed to be buried somewhere near High Point.

In the 1890's this site was a popular camping area complete with three hotels and a tent camp in Doane Valley. The USFS constructed a fire lookout here that consisted of a 67' open k-brace steel tower with a C-16 type 14' x 14' wood cab (1935).

The world famous Palomar Observatory, with its 200 inch reflecting telescope was planned by George Ellery Hale (1868-1938) and completed (1947).

The summit name was changed by the BGN from Smith to Palomar because of a "petition from local residents" who preferred it to be named after the old Rancho Cañada de Palomár (1846). Many local residents have resented the name change to this date-similar to the way many Angelenos still bitterly resent the BGN decision to replace the preferred term in local use (Sierra Madre) with Whitney's invention of "San Gabriel Mountains". In both cases the replacement name has stuck, but confusion has nonetheless resulted at Palomar due to the multiple names given this summit.

"Palomar Mountain" is the name Weldon Heald assigned to it on the original HPS Peak List. This name is still printed in the largest point size on the current USGS Palomar Observatory, quad (1949 PR88). Perhaps because there are so many high points in this general area, one was finally chosen as the highest and given a name-"High Point" was unofficially named by the USGS in 1947.

Additionally, "Palomar/High Point" is the only summit in Southern California that bears two official names simultaneously! Each name is "official for use" with the BGN. This misleading designation only means that the name is recorded as being in use, not that it has been accepted by the BGN. San Bernardino Peak is in this class. Such names belong to a lower level of "official" that is not accorded any sanction or protection by the government, and such names are subject to change at any time. Both names have exactly the same elevations (6140'), USGS Quadrangle codes (33116--C7), and GNIS map numbers (2707). Only the geographic coordinates differ slightly: "Palomar" is cited as 332148NI165007W, whereas "High Point" is listed as 332148N1165005W. The USBGN was created to eliminate confusion about place names, and it continues to do so here.

Despite HPS tradition, and overstepping on the part of the USGS, this peak has only one BGN "Official Decision Name" and this designation must supersede all others. The official name of this peak is "Mount Palomar".

Palomar first appears on the GLO State of California map (1900)

High Point first appears on USGS Palomar Observatory quad (1949).

Mount Palomar officially acceopted by USBGN (1901).

Peak was on the original 1946 HPS Peak List. Weldon Heald climbed this peak in 1940.


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Updated 25-February-2003