Bear River City

Adapted from Frederick M. Huchel, A History of Box Elder County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1999; “Bear River City,” accessed April 9, 2020

Bear River city, named for the nearby Bear River, is located in Eastern Box Elder County. It was settled in 1866 by Anne Anderson and some other Scandinavian immigrants. The settlers relocated from an earlier location along the Malad River because that river was too salty for culinary use. The settlers spent their first winter in dugouts along the Bear river. The following year, the settlers built a fort to protect against possible Indian aggression. The settlers lived out of this fort for several years before leaving it to build homes in the area that would become Bear River City.

The settlers intended to dam the Malad River and divert water for farming. The idea was that a nearby number of creeks would feed enough fresh water into the diverted water to make agriculture viable. However, settlements further north diverted water, which left the Malad River water that reached Bear River City too alkaline for the crops. The discouraged settlers were encouraged to stay by Brigham Young, who promised them that one day they would be able to use water from the Bear River. In the interim, many residents worked for the railroad, freighting industry, and the nearby co-op farm across the river. 

Eventually, the Bear River was dammed and the farms in the area began to flourish. The residents grew many canning crops, including peas, tomatoes, corn, and beans, until the canneries closed. Farmers switched production to feed for cattle.

The city was incorporated in 1885. Early additions to the town included a brick building in 1899 that served as both church and school, and an opera house in 1904. The opera house burned down and was replaced with a recreation hall. The brick church was continually added upon and modified over time, until a windstorm took the roof off in the 1990s. The building was replaced in 1996. 

Today, many of the residents of Bear River City work in the industries in nearby towns. One major factor that has slowed growth has been the availability of culinary water in the area. The population is about 900.