The north side of the strait rises steeply to approximately 450 m (1,500 ft), and the south shore to approximately 750 m (2,500 ft). The current in the strait can run at up to 8 knots and often changes its direction. It is also often filled with small icebergs which pose a danger to ships in the strait.
In 1852, Captain William Kennedy became the first European to sight the Bellot Strait while searching for John Franklin's lost Arctic expedition. It was named after Joseph René Bellot, who accompanied Kennedy. The strait was first crossed by the Hudson's Bay Company ship Aklavik in 1937, piloted by Scotty Gall, who travelled from the western shore to the eastern.
The Fort Ross trading post, on the northern shore, was established in 1937.