The region comprising Bear Lake County has alway been an important juncture for overland travel. From the 1800s onward, migrants on the Oregon and California trails traversed the area, relying on knowledge garnered by Native Americans, early explorers, and mountain men. Later, railroad systems largely followed these routes, then highways for automobile travel.
Bear Lake County Routes
The modern railroad, and US-30 to an even greater extent, closely follow the old emigrant trails. This route west brings travelers through the mountains from Wyoming into the Bear Lake Valley. The trail continued northward toward Soda Springs and eventually brought pioneers to Fort Hall and out onto the Snake River Plain.
From the 1840s, the route was primarily an emigrant trail, with stage and freight traffic increasing over the subsequent decades. The availability of railroads to carry cargo along most of the route after 1884 shifted the trails back to being used primarily by emigrants, rather than supply caravans.
This map (on the left, ed.) includes wetland areas, and although the trails generally followed rivers when possible, they mostly avoided the marshes in the central valley. These later proved to be obstinate natural barriers to settlement of the valley itself.
During nineteenth-century U.S. westward expansion, numerous trails were established. The Mormon trail, for example, followed the same general path as the eastern half of the Oregon and California Trails but diverged toward Utah at Fort Bridger, in Wyoming.
This Pegram truss railroad bridge stood near Georgetown (missing) decades from around 1894 to 1913, at which time it was moved to (missing) Idaho. It is now a national historic site, visible from SH-36.
Route US-30 is known as the "Old Oregon Trail" highway, while US-89 is often called "The National Park" highway. The other major route in the region is SH-36, passing through Emigration Canyon following the path of early settlers into the Bear Lake region.