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  • History of Bear Lake, Utah

    History of Bear Lake, Utah
    Sometimes referred to as "the Caribbean of the Rockies" for its unusual turquoise color (the result of a rare water chemistry), Bear Lake is a freshwater lake on the Idaho-Utah border. It's a popular fishing destination.


    Bear Lake was formed, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Services, "at least 150,000 years ago by geologic faulting."

    The Shoshoni Tribe

    The Shoshoni tribe was the original inhabitant of the Bear Lake valley. It used the lake as a meeting place.

    Discovery and Naming

    Canadian fur trader and explorer Donald Mackenzie was the first non-Indian to see the lake while visiting a Shoshone meeting in 1819. He named it "Black Bear Lake" for the number of black bears in the area.

    Trapper Meetings

    Fur traders in the West met at the Valley in 1826 and 1827 to trade supplies and furs. According to the Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, "Such notables as Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, William Ashley and Tom Fitzgerald were in attendance."

    First Settler

    According to the Utah Division of State Parks, the first permanent settler area in the area was Thomas Pegleg Smith, "a crusty, one-legged, ex-mountain man." In the 1840s, he set up a trading post to supply travelers on the Oregon Trail.

    Mormon Settlement

    In September 1863, says Mormons led by Charles C. Rich arrived in the Valley. These Mormons wound up founding the villages of Garden City, Pickleville and Laketown.

    Article Written By Leo Champion

    Leo's been a journalist, an editor, a copywriter, a PR guy, a marketing consultant and about twenty other things. He grew up in Australia but came to Boston in 2000 where he's mostly lived since. Alongside running local newspaper The Allston-Brighton Voice, he's written for Boston papers Editorial Humor and The Weekly Dig, as well as a slew of blogs and small-circulation publications.

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