A Short History of Bear Lake

Bear Lake was discovered by the early Mountain Men, trappers and explorers in about 1811- 1812.

1819 - Prior to 1819, Bear Lake was located within the land claimed by Spain.

1819 - In 1819, the land North of the 42nd Parallel was ceded to the United States. This bisected Bear Lake. The Northern half became part of the Oregon Territory while the Southern half remained Spanish land.

1821 - The Southern half of Bear Lake became a Mexican possession when Mexico won its Independence from Spain.

1827-1828 - During the summers Mountain Men held their annual rendezvous in the Bear Lake valley near Round Valley to exchange their winter's furs for food, guns, ammunition and supplies.

1833-1834 -  Bear Lake was explored by US Army Capt. E. de Bonneville who stated "The lake abounds with trout and other small fish".

1841 -  The first wagon train marks the beginning of the migration of settlers to this area of the West.

1842-1843 - Numerous explorers and adventurers travel through the Bear Lake Valley including John C. Fremont, Kit Carson, Bill Sublett, Jedediah Smith, and Jim Bridger.

1843 - Start of the Oregon Trail

1847 - The Mormon Trail (which does not go through Bear Lake Valley)

1848 - The California Trail

1842-1857 - Bear Lake's first white resident, Thomas "Peg Leg" Smith establishes a trading post on the Bear River.

1850 - On Sept. 9th 1850, the Utah Territory is established.

1850 - The Organic Act establishes the 42nd Parallel as the northern bondary of Utah Territory.

1862 - The Homestead Act offers settlers 160 acres of land in exchange for a minor filing fee and a promise to reside on the land and improve it.

1863 -  On March 3rd the Idaho Territory is created.

1863 - In September, Charles C. Rich leads Mormon settlers into the Bear Lake Valley. They thought they were settling within the Utah Territory. The first settlement is Paris. Charles C. Rich and Chief Washakie of the Shoshoni Indians reach a cooperative, peaceful agreement that the settlers would be allowed in all parts of the valley except the Southern end of the lake.

1864 - During the Spring, an additional 700 Mormon settlers establish the towns of Bloomington, Fish Haven, Liberty, Montpelier, Ovid, and St. Charles. By the Summer of 1864, businesses in Montpelier were trading with travelers traversing the Oregon Trail.

1871 - The survey done by the US Geological Survey reestablishes that Bear Lake is half in Utah and half in Idaho.

A Short History of Bear Lake
Photographer: Unknown - Location: Bear Lake, Idaho -



Copyright 2002-2009 by Michael L. Jex & William R. Stirling