Originally called Little Willow Creek, the canyon came to be called Deaf Smith Canyon, and that name started to appear on USGS maps between 1952 and 1962. Early pioneers eyed the timber in the canyon and several entrepreneurs asked for the rights to build toll roads into it. But the rugged terrain forced them to realize that the expenses outweighed the benefits.
The canyon has two forks. The longest one drains the west side of Twin Peaks. Big Willow Irrigation Company pulls its water out of Deaf Smith Creek.