Fort Bidwell is located at the north end of the Surprise Valley.
In 1877, Thomas W. Symons traveled through the area: "Our course then lay to the south along the section of the country lying between the mountains and the lake. This is a fertile section well watered by the streams which come down from the mountains and is well settled. Crossing over the Lake City Pass we made our first entry into Surprise Valley and proceeded north to Camp Bidwell. Here we were received with the greatest hospitality by the officers of the post and every facility afforded us for repairing our transportation and getting things in condition for further work. Here we bade adieu to Messrs Henshaw and Cooke who were ordered in by Lieutenant Wheeler and on the 27th of September we left Bidwell and moved down the west side of the valley as far as Eagleville when we crossed over to the east and up the east side as far as 49 Canon Following the emigrant road as far as Massacre Flat we left the present well traveled road and struck off to the southeast by the old and now abandoned road which leads through High Rock Cation Our route lay for the most part through the barren sage deserts and across alkali flats. Nothing can exceed the horrid desolation of this country where no living thing bird beast or insect is seen. The vegetation of the district the sage brush simply adds to the depressing effect."
- Thomas W. Symons, "Executive and Descriptive Report of Lieutenant Thomas W. Symonds Corp of Engineers on the operations of Party No 1 California Section Field Season of 1877," p. 117-118, 1878.