Update: Falls Run Name Correction

In April of last year, we posted about the ecologically important tributary of Elk Creek where Howard Falls is located. Falls Run originates two miles south of Howard Falls at the St Lawrence continental divide and is a rather insignificant stream for those first two miles. However, after cascading over the Falls, the Falls Run Gorge is formed, and the stream flows for three more miles down through this important PA Natural Heritage Area gorge to its confluence with Elk Creek. Unfortunately, the tributary was incorrectly named Falk Run on a 1905 Pennsylvania State Highway Map, probably when the ‘ls’ of Falls Run was misread as a ‘k’, and the typographical error has been perpetuated ever since.

After researching how to have the name corrected, we submitted a proposal to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) in April of this year for a formal name change to Falls Run. The BGN is responsible for standardizing geographic names for use by the Federal Government. Concurring with us on the name change proposal were the Franklin Township supervisors and the Erie County Planning Department.

While the BGN’s initial response was favorable writing “As you note, the name Falls Run has been in widespread use for 150 years”, and their research confirmed that the name should indeed be Falls Run, its members must approve any new name or name change before it can be shown on Federal maps and products. The BGN requested additional research from the Erie County GIS Coordinator, who returned the following information:

The referred to stream is labeled in the following maps:

• 1865 Erie County Atlas – Falls Run
1905 PennDOT Type 10 County Map – Falk Run (*all subsequent PennDOT historic Type 10 County maps were labeled Falk Run)
• 1924 Rand McNally Map – Falls Run

The GIS coordinator believed the clerical error happened at some time by PennDOT’s predecessor, and concluded “Based on the earliest records we have, Falls Run appears to be the correct name for this stream.”

Our proposal was finally presented to the Domestic Names Committee members of the BGN in their August 11th meeting. With the continued support of the Franklin Township Supervisors and the Erie County GIS Coordinator, and no objection from the Pennsylvania State Names Authority, the proposal was unanimously approved by the 18 members of the BGN!

Clip from the DNC’s 845th Meeting Minutes from August 11, 2022

The decision reads as follows: 

Falls Run: stream; 6.7 mi. long; in Franklin Township, heads at 41.9247222, -80.1816667, flows NW to join Elk Creek at 41.9792225, -80.2447828; the name refers to the falls located along the stream; Erie County, Pennsylvania; USGS map – Edinboro North 1:24,000; Not: Falk Run. 

The name has been updated in the Geographic Names Information System, the nation’s official geographic names repository, available online here. With BGN promulgating the change, map revisions will begin to incorporate the corrected name. We are pleased to have already seen it corrected in Apple Maps. Finally, after 117 years, Falls Run has its rightful name back!

Falls Run Correctly identified in Apple Maps.

Special thank you to Jennifer Runyon of the U.S. Geological Survey for her help with our proposal.

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