August 7, 1841 — Bear River Valley

John Bidwell waxes poetical in the Bear River Valley:

Saturday, 7th. This morning we were obliged to make an inland circuit from the river, the bluffs approaching so near the river as to rend it impossible to continue along its banks. We, however, reached it again by a most beautiful defile, and beautifully watered by a small rivulet proceeding from a spring. In the afternoon we again left the river on account of the hills, and did not reach it again until dark. The bluffs were exceedingly high, and no person could ever believe that wagons ever passed these huge eminences of nature, did he not witness it with his own eyes. But the pleasing view we had from their top, just as the sun was going to sleep behind the western mountains, paid us for all our trouble.

A most beautiful landscape presented itself to view — the rugged summits of almost every shape were fantastically pictured upon the sky bounding the western horizon. A beautiful little lake was seen to the south, whose surface was fancifully mottled with numerous islands, while the river meandered proudly through the valley among willows and scattering cottonwoods till it disappeared among the hills in the shades of evening. Distance traveled today 16 miles.

Over and over, Bidwell uses the word “beautiful” — what a refreshing sight that landscape must have been. After traveling across the arid landscape of western Wyoming, the Bear River valley was an oasis of good water, plentiful grass, and abundant game. The “beautiful little lake” which they could see to the south must have been Bear Lake, which gives us a pretty good idea of where they were on August 7th.


This photo of Bear Lake State Park is courtesy of Tripadvisor.

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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