Big Meadows was first settled in early 1859, although Indians had lived in the area long before then. Byron 'By' Day was the first white man to spend winter in the valley, and reportedly his horses survived by eating tree bark. That year, ranches were established by Napoleon Hunewill and brothers William T. & G.A. Whitney. With the rush to nearby mining camps like Dog Town, Bodie, Monoville, and Aurora, Big Meadows became an important stop for wagons passing through from the Comstock Lode. A small town developed along the East Walker River, where wagons had to ford the river, giving the town the nickname "the port with the ford." After the road became impassable due to heavy use, a bridge was built and the nickname changed to "the port with a bridge," which soon evolved into Bridgeport.

In 1861, Mono County was established. Aurora was selected as the county seat, as the boundary between California and the Nevada Territory was not well defined; Aurora was also the county seat of Esmeralda County, Nevada. In September 1863, the "Sage Brush Survey" was conducted and Aurora was indeed determined to be within the boundaries of the Nevada Territory. Mono County's records were moved to Bodie, and in 1864 Bridgeport was made the county seat. The County purchased the American Hotel from J.C. Kingsley and converted it to the first courthouse, where it remained until the new one was completed in April 1880.

Following the completion of the new courthouse, many of Bridgeport's businesses relocated from the river crossing. Hotels and stores were built, and a trio of saloons were opened just east of the courthouse. A newspaper, the Chronicle Union, moved from Bodie to Bridgeport in 1880 (it would last until the early 1950s). Bridgeport continued to thrive as a business center until mining declined in the region, when its economy shifted to agriculture and tourism. Today the town is a popular stop for those visiting the eastern Sierras, and the town has a stable population of around 575.