Bonneville Point is named after U.S. Army Captain Benjamin Bonneville, who reached this viewpoint in 1833 and saw the entire Boise River Valley beneath him. As the legend goes, Bonneville cried out, “Les bois; les bois; vouyez le bois!” (“The woods; the woods; see the woods!”). His party is credited with naming the area, and following Bonneville’s discovery of the lush valley, the Bonneville Point became a fondly remembered location for pioneers on the Oregon Trail as they took in their first views of the Boise valley.
Nowadays, visitors to Bonneville Point can stand in the same spot where Benjamin Bonneville stood in 1833, while imaging the throes of emigrants on the Oregon Trail who realized that they had passed the most arduous points in the journey just to reach the beauty of Boise. In fact, visitors can still see the trails where thousands of wagons passed during those years, and blended among the sagebrush is the tracks from trains of wagon wheels heading for Boise. Due to the historical significance of this point, the National Park Service listed Bonneville point on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Captain Benjamin Bonneville was a French-born U.S. Soldier, fur trapper, and explorer who was made famous for his observations and accounts of his explorations, particularly those written by Washington Irving. Bonneville enjoyed a successful military career leading up to his explorations, and in 1832, he successfully petitioned General Alexander Malcomb for a leave of absence to pursue his dreams of exploring the west.
His goal was to “examine the locations, habits, and trading practices of the Indian tribes, visit British and American establishments, and study the best means of making the country available to American citizens.” In 1832, Bonneville left St. Louis on his journey, and by the spring 1833, while traveling along an old Indian trail, Bonneville reached the present-day Bonneville Point.
”Bonneville considered the country about the Boise (or Woody) river as the most enchanting he had seen in the Far West, and described it as presenting the mingled grandeur and beauty of mountain and plain; of bright running streams and vast grassy meadows waving to the breeze.”
— Washington Irving, The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, 1837
It was getting late when I reached the top of the Big Hill, around which the road leads to the Plain, which is spread out at its base, almost as far as the eye can reach; broken in the distance by the Mountains in the regions of the Malheur & Burnt Rivers. To the right rose up that majestic Range of mountains, which is the source of the river below, and from which we issued yesterday. Below, thousands of feet below, were seen the water of this beautiful river winding there tranquil course & gleaming like a thread of silver in the rays of the setting sun. The stream seemed as calm and gentle, as if its way was through a meadow, instead of rugged canyons. After reaching the plain, the course of the stream is marked by a line of green timber, which gave rise to Bonneville point—view from pointits name among the early trappers 'Boisse' or the 'Wooded River'. This green strip of vegetation winding its way through the desert sage plain, gave a more cheerful prospect to the view and after gazing once more on the vast map spread out before me I rapidly descended the hill to find a camp for the tired train; but never can the recollection of the grandeur of that scene be blotted from memory... . the sunset from the Big Hill of Boisse will always be a greene spot in the past.
— Winfield Ebey, August, 18641