Located in the top of the Rocky Mountains is Rendezvous Country, Land of the
Sky Blue Water. High mountains
mirrored in the turquoise waters of Bear Lake and valleys, traversed
by the meandering Bear River, provide a striking physical setting
for a historical heritage boasting of cowboys, Indians, mountain
men and hearty pioneers.
Native Americans prized
the the Bear Lake valley as prime hunting ground as well as a meeting
place. It was such a gathering in 1819 that Donald McKenzie first saw
and named the area for the abundance of black bears. Black Bears Lake,
quickly shortened to Bear Lake, was the site of two fur trader-trapper
Rendezvous held during the summers of 1826 and 1827. Such notables
as Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, William Ashley and Tom Fitzgerald were
in attendance. The south end of the valley was described as a "lighted
city" at one of these gatherings where fur traders, Indians and
suppliers met to trade for traps, supplies and furs.
Pathfinders John C. Fremont
and Captain Bonneville wrote of their findings in the Bear Lake valley.
Fremont was responsible for naming mountain peaks, canyons and streams
in the area. The Preuss Mountain range was named after his topographer.
Bonneville wrote of the huge marsh located north of Bear Lake.
accounts of pathfinders and fur traders led Oregon-bound emigrants
into the Bear Lake valley by way of the Thomas Fork valley. U.S. Highway
#30 North basically follows the old Oregon/California Trail. Many wagon
trains stopped at Thomas L. "Peg Leg"
Smith's trading post located near Dingle, Idaho for supplies and trading
stock. One traveler wrote of camping along the cottonwood-lined Bear
River watching grass, tall as a man, wave in the wind.
Charles C. Rich led Mormon
pioneers into the Bear Lake valley in September of 1863 and established
the fledgling community of Paris, Idaho. Other communities were quickly
established within the next few years. Accounts
are told of hearty pioneers struggling with the harsh and diverse climate.
The valley soon prospered as a farming and ranching area. Montpelier,
Idaho, growing from the coming railroad, phosphate mining and other
elements, became increasingly important in the economy of the valley.
The small farming communities
around Bear Lake are giving way to recreational development. Summer
home sites dot the hillsides around the lake. Recreational developments
promise vacations accented by the sparkling waters of Bear Lake. Skiing,
snowmobiling, sailing and swimming are offered to the recreationist.
Prime hunting and fishing areas are located within the "Greater
Bear Lake Valley", whether its trout fishing in the streams, ice
fishing for "Cisco", hunting deer or seeking elk along the
high mountain ridges. This scenic corner of Idaho and Utah offers outdoor
recreation and historical interests away from crowds and high prices.
Click here to see more
of scenic Bloomington Lake.
Mountain Man picture and text used
courtesy from a tourist brochure sponsored by the Idaho Travel Council,
County of Bear Lake, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, U.S.
Forest Service and the Greater Bear Lake Valley Chamber of Commerce.