Native American History
The Bear Lake Valley has a long and rich history. It dates back to the area's first inhabitants, who used the lake as a resource for over 6,000 years. Evidence of ancient settlements can be found in the petroglyphs that are still visible on the sides of nearby mountains. The area was first inhabited by the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, who made their way to the valley as early as 1000 AD in search of food and shelter. They named the lake Bear Lake for its population of black bears. For centuries, the tribe would use the lake for fishing and hunting, as well as to gather plants for food.
In 1811, the first non-Native Americans entered the Bear Lake Valley when two French-Canadian fur traders, Francois Larocque and Michel Bourdon, arrived in search of beaver pelts. The region came under the control of the United States with the signing of the Treaty of 1818, and in 1847 Mormon pioneers arrived in the valley and set up small settlements. The Mormons made use of Bear Lake's abundant resources, utilizing its fish for food and gathering wild plants to eat.
Early Mormon History
The area that is now Bear Lake State Park has been a popular vacation spot since the mid-1800s. Mormon explorers first discovered the lake in 1811 and named it after an aboriginal chief they had encountered on their journey. The area's rich soil and abundant wildlife made it ideal for settlement and people began to settle in the area in the 1840s.
In 1861, the first homestead in Bear Lake Valley was established and settlers began to settle around the lake. By 1875, there were over 100 homes in the region and with increasing numbers of tourists visiting for recreational fishing and boating, a number of resorts began to open along the lake's shores.
20th Century History
The early 1900s saw the development of Bear Lake State Park and the gradual conversion of the area from agriculture to recreation. In 1913, a bill was passed in the Idaho legislature establishing a state park along the northern shore of Bear Lake.
In1962, it was designated as an official state park. The park has undergone numerous improvements over the years and today offers a wide variety of recreational activities such as camping, boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking.