Tehuelche tribes lived in the area hundreds of years ago, then the white man came in search of the mythical City of the Caesars. Some historians mention Captain Juan Fernández as one of the first who arrived at the region in 1620.
But the real settlement in the area took place from 1883 when the first Chilean agriculturers who travelled trhough the paths in the cordillera occupied the valley. This migratory wave imprinted well defined characteristics in the agriculture of the region, since they introduced the Chilean knowledge and style.
A second migration took place between 1903 and 1905, they were Argentine citizens from different parts of the country.
Around the 30s the map of the city was traced, while streets and public buildings were being built. An important number of foreigners settled in the area at that time. Ukranian, Polish, Russian, Italian and Croatian workers were hired by engineer Alberto Pagano as skilled labor to build all the infrastructure of the town. These people had been previously been working in the railway track between Jacobacci and San Carlos de Bariloche.
The social organization of the Town Hall in El Bolsón originated in the first Comisión de Fomento founded in 1926 by the government of the Territorio Nacional de Río Negro. The following year, the Civil Court was created.
By decree Nº 25.574/33 of 5th September, 1933, the territory of El Bolsón was assigned a surface slightly under 8.000 hectares. On 18th November, 1957, it was declared municipality of a second category, and from then on conducted by a municipal agent.
At present, Town Hall is headed by an Intendente and assisted by a Town Council of 5 members.
The first tracing of El Bolsón was passed by decree of 12th July 1939, but was modified by Provincial Law 459 on 21st December 1965, and assigned a definitive surface of 20.000 hectares.
Within the area there is also a sector of 23.000 hectares under national jurisdiction, Parque Nacional Lago Puelo, in the province of Chubut around lake Puelo.
In the 60s, bohemian people searching for tranquility and a new way of life settled in El Bolsón. They belonged to the “hippie movement”and came from big cities; they chose the farms in the surroundings for their new life. This immigration imprinted some particular characteristics to the town, not repeated in other parts of the country: community life, handicraft work, economic self-sufficiency, what gives a different image to the city today.
In the history of the region mingle old legends with the fantasy of the people who gave a spicy touch to these stories. Such is the case of the legend of Butch Cassidy, or the story of the plesiosaur that caused the Director of the Zoológico de Buenos Aires to come in 1925, or the legendary narrow gauge train that was so important in the development of these valleys.
James Ryan was the famous Butch Cassidy, a bank and train robber in the USA, who arrived in 1991 together with Harry and Etta Place and were assigned 6000 hectares in Chubut. The three of them and their activities gave origin to one of the most conroversial legends of the beginning of the century in Patagonia, then in other parts of the country and finally in Bolivia, the scenery of their criminal activities. The cabin they built is still preserved.
Another legendary character was Martin Sheffield, an American sheriff who came from Chile to the Nahuel Huapi in 1889, he worked there with other Americans and then settled in El Bolsón, where he was renowned for his personality and his proverbial gun shot. He was an amusing man, very much appreciated in social gatherings, who married to María Ancapichun, a native woman with whom they had 12 children, of which only Juana lives today in Cuesta del Ternero. Doña Juana says that she saw the plesiosaur which caused her father to write to Clemente Onelli in laguna Epuyén.