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.
With what jubilation they must have beheld the sight! Although they could not reach it that day, the Company could see a wide and extensive valley. The sight gave them great hope: hope of good food and easy traveling.
When did Bidwell and his companions enter the promised land of California? By present day borders they had already been in California since mid-October. They had been in Mexican territory even longer than that, but the land they traversed was more like the Great Empty Quarter of North America than part of a foreign nation. Although claimed by Mexico, the territory that later became the states of Utah and Nevada was inhabited solely by Native Americans.
For the Mexicans, Alta California was a narrow strip of land along the Pacific coast. There had been little exploration and no settlement in the Central Valley. All the missions and ranchos lay between the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Range.
Most of the Company thought that they would not reach California until they crossed another mountain range. How far they still had to travel to get to California was hotly debated in the group, with some insisting that they could not get there before winter set in.
But whether or not they knew it, they were in California. California was spread out before them, and it would prove to be 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!
THANK YOU for sharing your John Bidwell knowledge…I have always been amazed by John and Annie Bidwell’s enduring legacy for our hometown of Chico. But to follow in his own words his early drama has been very meaningful these past few months. Gives me hope for our present-day journey into history.
Thanks! What an adventure, right?