The Dolly Varden found in Alaska, Salvelinus malma, were never present in the McCloud River. The fish likely viewed by Elda McCloud were in fact bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus. Bull trout and Dolly Varden were confused by anglers and biologists until 1978 when Ted Cavender of Ohio State University demonstrated that bull trout was a valid species separate from Dolly Varden. At that time the world record Dolly Varden (32 pounds) from Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho became a record "bull trout".
Dolly was a young girl with a rosy complexion. In the late 1860s a popular green fabric adorned with small crimson polka dots was marketed under the name Dolly Varden.
The Dolly Varden is one of the most widely distributed salmonids in Alaska. It occurs throughout the coastal areas of the state from southeast Alaska across the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea into the Beaufort Sea to the Mackenzie River in northern Canada. It also occurs in streams in Interior Alaska and the Brooks Range. There are two forms of Dolly Varden in Alaska. The southern form ranges from southeast Alaska throughout the Gulf of Alaska to the south side of the Alaska Peninsula. The northern form ranges from the north side of the Alaska Peninsula northward to the Mackenzie River in Canada. Recently some char from the central Canadian Arctic drainages of the Tree and Coppermine rivers have been identified as Dolly Varden. Southern-form Dolly Varden differ from northern-form Dolly Varden in number of vertebrae(62-65 for southern form and 66-70 for northern form) and in number of chromosomes(82 for southern form and 78 for northern form).