John Bidwell Arrives in California

“Saturday, 30th. We had gone about 3 miles this morning, when lo! to our great delight, we beheld a wide valley! This we had entirely overlooked between us and the high mountains which terminated our view yesterday. Rivers evidently meandered through it, for timber was seen in long extended lines as far as the eye could reach. But we were unable to reach it today, and encamped in the plains. Here grew a few white oaks. Traveled today about 20 miles. Saw many tracks of elks. The valley was wonderfully parched with heat, and had been stripped of its vegetation by fire. Wild geese, fowls, etc. , were flying in multitudes.”

Just the day before, as the men gazed from the foothills at the coastal range, “Mr. Hopper, our best and most experienced hunter, observed that, “If California lies beyond those mountains we shall never be able to reach it.”” They had no idea that they were already in California.

That morning, the 30th, they breakfasted on coyote, and all Bidwell got was the lungs and the windpipe. Then as they traveled further down through the hills, following the Stanislaus River, they came upon this glorious view. California lay before them, and it was everything they had been promised: a fertile land teeming with wild game, with a healthy climate and plenty of room for all. California at last!

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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