Bear Lake Rendezvous of 1827

The Bear Lake rendezvous in 1827 marked the first year under a new company. Inflated supply prices and conflicts with the local Blackfoot tribe stunted the success of this meeting.

Bear Lake is a freshwater body on the Utah–Idaho border that is situated within a small valley, at an elevation of 5,923 feet. Eight miles long and twenty miles wide, calcium carbonates suspended in the lake water give it a unique green-blue hue, earning Bear Lake the nickname “Caribbean of the Rockies.” Fur trappers and traders from the 1827 rendezvous also referred to the area as “Sweet Lake.” The newly formed Smith, Jackson, and Sublette firm chose Bear Lake’s south shore for both the 1827 and 1828 Rocky Mountain rendezvous, making the site the new trade system’s first lakeside location. The site would have been a part of Mexico’s territory during that time. Today, the site is located near the city of Laketown, Utah.

William Henry Ashley was not in attendance at the 1827 rendezvous, as he had sold his share in the fur company to Smith, Jackson, and Sublette the previous year. However, he was still contracted to supply merchandise for the rendezvous. Fur trappers in attendance that year complained about “exorbitant” prices of supplies that year, as described by explorer Daniel Trotter Potts in a letter to a friend. He explained the difficulty of making profits in the fur trade due to these high prices, which were inflated and known as “mountain prices.” For trappers, this was one downside of the centralized rendezvous system.

In a lighter moment, when Jedediah Smith arrived at the rendezvous late, traders already present celebrated his arrival by firing a cannon. Some worried he had become lost while making the trip from California. Before he could miss the rendezvous, though, Smith met a Snake Tribe encampment north of the Salt Lake who informed him of the Bear Lake rendezvous twenty-five miles away, and he made it in time for the traders to welcome him.

The Bear Lake rendezvous of 1827 was significant due to a violent skirmish with members of the Blackfeet Nation. Allegedly, the conflict began when Blackeet individuals entered camp to murder a man and woman from the Snake tribe. The white traders already had ongoing conflicts with the Blackfeet, so they allied with Snake tribe trappers in what became a violent battle. A small number of whites were injured in the skirmish, though none died, but multiple Native Americans died. The exact number of fatalities remains unknown, however.

Bear Lake was opened as a Utah State Park in 1862. Rendezvous Beach on the south shore is named in honor of the 1827 and 1828 rendezvous held there. The lake has since become a popular attraction for tourists and sports enthusiasts with many recreational activities available such as fishing, hiking, waterskiing, and swimming. The area is also notable for its raspberries, which thrive in the Bear Lake valley’s climate. During the summer Raspberry Days festival, there are sometimes rendezvous events included where attendees can learn about frontier history and recreate the mountain man lifestyle.

Images

Bear Lake today
Bear Lake today Note the vibrant blue color of the water. Source: “Garden City, Utah on the Shores of Bear Lake.” Ken Lund, April 15, 2006. Via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0). https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenlund/129260096/.
David Potts on the “Rocky Mountains”
David Potts on the “Rocky Mountains” Excerpt of a letter from David Potts describing his travels through Utah in 1826, in which he makes references to Bear Lake (then called Sweet Lake). Source: Potts, David. “Rocky Mountains, 16 July 1826.” In New York American, May 29, 1827, 2. Courtesy of Digital Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/19CMNI/id/9140.
Rendezvous marker
Rendezvous marker The Bear Lake historical marker noting the location’s significance in the fur trade, located near the Utah state line. Source: “Bear Lake Historic Marker.” Jimmy Emerson, July 15, 2009. Via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). https://flic.kr/p/6KGBPA.
Pelt and hoop
Pelt and hoop Fur trappers used wooden hoops like this to dry their beaver skins before bringing them to the rendezvous. Source: Mickey Bohnacker, ca. 1978. Via Wikimedia Commons (public domain). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Castor_fiber_canadensis_(Canadian_beaver)_fur_skin_(cut_2).jpg.
Rich County map
Rich County map A map of Rich County, where Bear Lake is located. Source: n.a. Uploaded February 27, 2006. Via Wikimedia Commons (public domain). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richcounty_ut.png.

Location

Rendezvous Beach, Utah 84038

Metadata

Emily Roth, Northern Arizona University, “Bear Lake Rendezvous of 1827,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 23, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/611.