Bear Creek passes through southern Hannibal, about a half mile from Sam's boyhood home. He learned to swim in Bear Creek and as with other boys ignored the ordinance against swimming within the city limits. He saw two friends drown there and claimed to have nearly drowned there twice, himself. See chapter 55 of Life on the Mississippi.
Bear Creek—so called, perhaps, because it was always so particularly bare of bears—is hidden out of sight now, under islands and continents of piled lumber, and nobody but an expert can find it. I used to get drowned in it every summer regularly, and be drained out, and inflated and set going again by some chance enemy; but not enough of it is unoccupied now to drown a person in. It was a famous breeder of chills and fever in its day. I remember one summer when everybody in town had this disease at once. Many chimneys were shaken down, and all the houses were so racked that the town had to be rebuilt. The chasm or gorge between Lover's Leap and the hill west of it is supposed by scientists to have been caused by glacial action. This is a mistake.