The Official Web Site
Bear Lake County,
P.O. Box 190, Paris, ID
83261 - (208) 945-2212
A Brief History
of the Bear Lake Valley
The Bear Lake Valley was used
by Native Americans for many years. It was recognized as prime
hunting grounds by traveling bands of Shoshone, Ute and Bannock
tribes. It was a frequent camping area for those on hunting trips.
Mountain men came to the area
early in 1818 for trapping and hunting. Donald "Fats"
McKenzie attended one of the Indian gatherings at the south end
of Bear Lake in 1819 and named Bear Lake "Black Bear Lake"
because black bears were abundant in the area. There were two
documented rendezvous held in 1827 and 1828. Indians, suppliers
and trappers gathered to trade furs and goods. Jedediah Smith
and Jim Bridger were present at these rendezvous. John C. Fremont
came through the area in 1842. He and Captain Bonneville wrote
about their discoveries regarding Bear Lake Valley. Fremont named
many of the mountain peaks, canyons and streams in the area.
In 1836, the Whitman-Spalding
party came through the area to establish a mission among the
Indians. They sent word back about the opportunities for settlement
in the Oregon Territory and soon hundreds and then thousands
of people began making the journey. In 1841, Oregon Trail travelers
crossed the valley on their way to land in western Oregon. The
Oregon Trail entered the valley near the point of the present
community of Border about where U. S. Highway 30 enters Idaho,
generally parallel the line of the Bear River as it journey's
northwest. (Later graveled and then paved roads covered much
of the old trail.) The banks of Clover Creek, now known as Montpelier
Creek, were favored camping places for the travelers as they
stopped overnight, then hurried on to reach their destination
before snow fell. Many arrived between early to late July leaving
the valley again deserted except for the occasional mountain
Thomas L. "Peg Leg" Smith operated a trading post during
the early days of the trail and traded goods and animals with
those journeying along the trail. His trading post was located
near Dingle, which is southeast of Montpelier.
It was 1863 when Mormon leader
Brigham Young sent the first Mormon settlers to the valley under
the leadership of Charles C. Rich. They established the community
of Paris, using timber, water and other resources from the valley.
Bear Lake County was influenced
greatly by its pioneer heritage, the Oregon Trail, and the advent
of the railroad. Population is limited due to its extended winter