The City of Chico was founded in 1860 by John Bidwell, a member of one of the first wagon trains to reach California in 1843. During the American Civil War, Camp Bidwell (named for John Bidwell, by then a Brigadier General of the California Militia), was established a mile outside Chico, by Lt. Col. A. E. Hooker with a company of cavalry and two of infantry, on August 26, 1863. By early 1865 it was being referred to as Camp Chico when a post called Camp Bidwell was established in northeast California, later to be Fort Bidwell. The city became incorporated January 8, 1872.
Historian W.H. "Old Hutch" Hutchinson identified five events as the most seminal in Chico history. They included the arrival of John Bidwell in 1850, the arrival of the California and Oregon Railroad in 1870, the establishment of the Northern Branch of the State Normal School in 1887, the purchase of the Sierra Lumber Company by the Diamond Match Company in 1900, and the development of the Army Air Base, which is now the Chico Municipal Airport.
Chico is known as a well-managed city that values quality infrastructure and services, and maintains a special sense of community and small-town living as it has developed into a vibrant regional center for business, recreation and cultural activities. There are also many recreational opportunities in and around Chico. BIDWELL PARK one of the largest municipally owned parks in the nation (3,670 acres), is the focal point of the City's park system and offers numerous trails for biking, hiking and equestrian use.