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History of Bear Lake

Pre-19th Century

Shoshone, Ute, and Bannock tribespeople inhabited the area surrounding Bear Lake for hundreds of years. The area was an ideal hunting and fishing ground.


French-Canadian trappers begin exploring the area. Donald Mackenzie, an explorer for the North West Fur Company, arrived at Bear Lake in 1819. He originally named it Black Bear Lake, which was later shortened to Bear Lake.


Frequent meetings between trappers, explorers, and Native American tribesmen led to the naming of Rendezvous Beach at the south end of the lake.


Explorer John C. Fremont passes through Bear Lake Valley. Many of the area's mountain peaks, streams, and canyons' contemporary names are coined by Fremont. Records from Fremont and other explorers helped thousands of East Coast emigrants across this portion of the Oregon Trail over the course of the 19th century.


The creation of the Utah Western Railway helps establish more settlements and communities within the Bear Lake Valley, many of whom belong to families of pioneers led by Brigham Young to the area a decade prior.



The Utah Power and Light Company secures the water rights to Bear Lake. The company then begins construction of canals linking Bear River and Bear Lake.


The Bear River Compact, an agreement between Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming surrounding the distribution of the river's water, is established. It is subsequently revised in 1980. 

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The Utah Power & Light plant on the north end of the lake in 1950. Source:


Bear Lake officially becomes a Utah State Park.


Utah State Parks and Recreation opens the original Bear Lake marina. 

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Bear Lake frozen and covered in snow in winter 1973.



A $2.5 million marina renovation project expands the marina's original boat capacity and improves parking facilities.


A study is published to determine the feasibility and funding sources for further marina expansion. 

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Beachgoers at the lake in 2002.


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