An adventure from Bartell’s Backroads to the most northeastern city in California.
FORT BIDWELL, Calif. — If you’re looking to get away from it all, Fort Bidwell is the place.
Located in the far reaches of the Surprise Valley of Modoc County, this small town is as laid back as it gets. There are more cows than people.
There is no need for a map in this city. If you’re looking for a church, go down Church Street. Do you want to know where the old bridge is? Turn onto Bridge Street. If someone says meet me at the willow, you guessed it. It’s on Willow Street.
They are very literal with their names at Fort Bidwell.
There are a number of abandoned buildings around town, but rest assured, people live here, and if you’re looking for something to eat, stop by the Fort Bidwell Hotel and Restaurant for their famous steak dinner.
Chef Peter Newell and baker Krystal Whittaker say the meat comes directly from a pasture on the other side of town.
“If someone told you to start a restaurant, this would be the last place they would tell you to start it, but we do it pretty well,” Newell said.
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After your steak dinner, enjoy the charm of the old hotel. Photos and antiques from Fort Bidwell’s past are everywhere, and if you ask Newell, he’ll give you a history lesson.
The fort was established closer to 1865 and named after General John Bidwell. The soldiers stationed here were protecting the pioneers on the Apple Gate Trail from the dangers on the border.
The troops also fought in the Modoc War, California’s last war against Native Americans. In 1890, Fort Bidwell became an Indian reservation and has been ever since.
If you come in the spring, you can catch the annual Squirrel Wars hunting competition. Small rodents eat farmers’ crops, and Modoc County is infested with them. Poison is not an option, so the best way to manage the population is to hunt them.
“It’s basically target practice,” Newell said.
REACH THE ROADS: Summer is almost here! Plan your ultimate road trip with John Bartell’s list of the 10 best California destinations to visit.