Past travel and settlement across the rugged lands of the Bear Lake Valley were strongly influenced by the valley's hydrologic features. The shifting rivers, sloughs, and marshes presented natural barriers and were prone to flooding. This often caused the relocation of routes and fords, and sometimes required the reconstruction or replacement of washed-out bridges. Today, railways and modern roads provide more reliable transit around the region.
Bear River County
Part of a map (left) by 1st Lieut. George M. Wheeler, based on an 1877 expedition to the American West. Early roads built by settlers in the Bear Lake Valley are visible. The longest went north from Ovid to Soda Springs before returning south to the Cache Valley, and another passed through Emigration Canyon.
The 42nd parallel north (drawn east-west across Bear Lake) was eventually designated as the border with Utah, causing confusion for settlers who had expanded northward.
Native American tribes, and later mountain men, frequented the Bear Lake Valley, prior to settlement by Mormon pioneers in 1863. To the north, migrants moved along the Oregon/California Trail towards other destinations. Building reliable roads and bridges was a concern for the settlers, as evidenced in court proceedings,
such as this record from March 4th, 1872:
"A note from D.P. Kimball was read urging the court to appro. a sufficient amount to secure the Ovid Outlet Bridge from being washed away by high water."
The picture at left (top center) shows the Bear River at high water, with vegetation and gravel bars visible in the current. It flows northward through the valley, then turns south into the Cache Valley, eventually draining into the Great Salt Lake.
The Ping Pong Railway
The "Ping Pong" railway (picture bottom center) ran between Paris and Montpelier where it connected to the Oregon Short Line Railroad that ran from Wyoming to the northwest. The name "Ping Pong: was bestowed for the sound of the train engine's bell.
Remnants of wooden pilings indicate a bridge predating the concrete Ovid Creek East Bridge, which was built in 1934. In turn, the 1934 structure, pictured above in an early photo (bottom right), was replaced in 2014 with a new bridge meeting current highway standards.