Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Part of our in-depth series exploring the Mountain Pacific Forts

Picture of Fort Bidwell

Although various dates have been given for the inception of this post (1863 to 1866), located at the present town of Fort Bidwell at tile northern and of Sunrise Valley in Modoc County, it was most probably established sometime in 1863. The post, strategically located in the northwestern corner of the state, was intended to hold in check the marauding Indians of northeastern California, southern Oregon, and western Nevada, and to protect the travel routes into eastern Oregon and Idaho.

Originally called Camp Bidwell, it was named for Major John Bidwell, California Volunteers, a veteran of the Mexican War, and a pioneer California settler Abandoned early in 1865, it was reestablished as a log built two company post on July 17, 1865, close to its original situation on a new site selected by Major Robert S. Williamson, Corps of Engineers. Major General Irwin McDowell, the department's commander, then referred to it as a fort, but officially it was designated as Camp Bidwell until April 5, 1879, when it became Fort Bidwell. (Records in the National Archives maintain that when the post was reestablished, it was designated "Fort" Bidwell by General Orders No. 44.)

Although tile post was still garrisoned until October 21, 1893, the military reservation had been transferred to the Department of tile Interior on November 22, 1890. The property then became a government Indian school and the headquarters for the Fort Bidwell Indian Reservation. In 1930 the boarding school was discontinued and the military barracks, formerly used as Indian student dormitories, were torn down, The commanding officer's quarters, however, are still standing, and nearby is the old post's cemetery.


Town of Fort Bidwell in Surprise Valley, California, can be reached by U.S. 299 from the west. U.S. 395 is the northsouth junction with U.S. 299 west of the valley 24 miles. In center of Fort Bidwell town, turn left at Lowell's store, go west 300 yards to fort site, now part of Indian agency.

Communities and Related Links
Surprise Valley Chamber of Commerce

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