Obsidian Mines in Modoc worth a visit
By Jean Bilodeaux
03/30/13 -- Ever wonder where the Native Americans got the material to make their arrowheads? The mountains just east of the little town of Davis Creek feature many places that were used for thousands of years to create these tools. Huge domes of volcanic matter bubbled to the surface and cooled rapidly forming the shiny black glass called obsidian. Because of the gases in the air when reaching the surface, these massive, mile-wide, domes formed glass that is iridescent in color. Some at first glance are green, blue, purple, red, yellow, orange, brown, clear, gold, silver or any combination or all of the colors mentioned. Because of this unique coloring, people from all over the world come here to collect the beautiful rocks.
Obsidian. Photo courtesy of Modoc National Forest
Obsidian is dense volcanic glass, usually rhyolite in composition and typically black in color. Obsidian is often formed in rhyolite lava flows where the lava cools so fast that crystals do not have time to grow. Glass, unlike crystals, has no regular structure and therefore fractures in smooth, curved shapes. The intersections of these fractures can form edges sharper than the finest steel blades. For this reason, obsidian was used by many native cultures to make arrowheads and blades. Even today, surgeons use the knife sharp edges in operations.
The volcanic deposits found in the Warner Mountains come in many forms. From the light weight pumice sometimes called “floating rocks” to the dense, glass-like obsidian, the colors and diversity are amazing. The Warner Mountains are famous for the variety of obsidian and for the four mines where the public can, with a permit, collect it.
The four mines - Pink Lady, Lassen Creek Rainbow, Needles and Middle Fork Davis Creek - are all located within a few miles of US Hwy 395 in northeast California. Rainbow obsidian found at the Rainbow Mine and Middle Fork Davis Creek is sought after for its colorful sheen. Pink obsidian from Pink Lady, and the bundles of obsidian needles from the Needles Mine are the most popular. To make the mines even more interesting, the Needles Mine has deposits of elongated obsidian needles, think string cheese only in glass. Ample obsidian deposits assure every looker success at finding this unique glass. To find the colored obsidian it is recommended that you go on sunny days between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., although other hours are okay, you just have to look harder.
On the Modoc National Forest, obsidian excavation may be done under a Free Use Authorization at any of the four designated mines. Excavation is allowed at these locations only. The Free Use Authorization allows a visitor to collect a predetermined amount per year of obsidian for their own personal use. This obsidian may not be sold or traded. Collection for resale is a violation of the Free Use Authorization permit.
The Davis Creek Mercantile in Davis Creek provides maps and permits to the mines, free of charge. Although four-wheel-drive vehicles are not needed, high clearance vehicles are suggested. The mines are closed during the winter months due to no road maintenance and snow. Call the Davis Creek Mercantile for road conditions if your travel is in early winter or late spring.
Free Use Authorizations are available at:
- Modoc National Forest Supervisor's Office - 800 West 12th Street, Alturas, CA 96101
- Warner Mountain Ranger District Office - 385 Wallace Street, Cedarville, CA 96104
- Davis Creek Mercantile - 41942 Highway 395, Davis Creek, CA 96108
Applications for commercial collection are only available at the Supervisor's Office. Call ahead for an appointment for a commercial permit at 530-233-5811.
This article also appears at geotourism.com.
More Outdoor News
Bowfishing in the Surf?
12/19/14 -- Is it legal to bowfish in the surf? Regulations say bowfishing is not allowed within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. I’m guessing on the beach it is ok for finfish, like spotfin croakers? However, I do know some beaches prohibit...Full Story
Christmas gift ideas from CDFW12/19/14 -- If you are looking for the perfect holiday gift for the outdoor enthusiasts in your life the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has some suggestions. For the angler on your list, now is the perfect time to...Full Story
CDFW gets new law enforcement chief12/18/14 -- California wildlife officer David Bess has been appointed the new chief of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham announced... Full Story
USFWS extends Fisher comment period12/17/14 -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is extending the public comment period on its proposal to list the West Coast population of fisher as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by 30 days. The new... Full Story
Yuba/Sutter development to be assessed12/17/14 -- The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Yuba and Sutter Counties are working together to preserve endangered species and streamline development permitting. To do that, they plan to assess the environmental impacts of... Full Story
Lassen Film Festival set for Jan. 17-1912/17/14 -- North State visitors and residents are being invited to discover winter at Lassen Volcanic National Park through outdoor fun and film at the third annual Lassen Film Festival January 17-19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Join park personnel for this free... Full Story
Oregon fox tests positive for rabies12/16/14 -- A gray fox involved in a Dec.11 biting incident in the Alazlea-Glen Road area (Douglas County) has tested positive for rabies. Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that attacks an infected animal’s nervous system... Full Story
Avoid a Collision! Check Tire Air Pressure
12/15/14 -- Well winter has finally arrived in Northern California and the reports of tire failure resulting in a collision have already started; as they do every year when the cold weather returns. Most often the driver reports a tire blow out...Full Story
Free: New Year’s Day guided hike/paddle
Horses/CA DFW wardens team up
Lake Co. OR ranchers stewardship praised
Storm dumps 4-8' of snow on Lassen Park
Sidearm While Duck Hunting
12/11/14 -- A friend and I recently had a situation where we found pig tracks at one of the areas where we like to duck hunt. We both found it a little unnerving to be walking in knee to waist high grass armed with only bird shot if a pig...Full Story
Winter travel reminders for forest users12/10/14 -- Whether you are travelling through or visiting the forests of Northern California or Southern Oregon to cut a Christmas tree or for any other reason, it would be smart to observe a few suggestions passed along today... Full Story
The Christmas Gift DilemmaBy Gary Heffley
12/07/14 -- Tic-Toc, Christmas is closer than you think and many are searching for that new and unique gift. That something a person can use but likely doesn’t have and something that won’t see the return counter...Full Story
CDFW opens registration for Nature Bowl12/05/14 -- Registration is now open for the 30th annual Nature Bowl, an elementary school activity-based competition held in the spring. Coordinated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in partnership with... Full Story
The Gift Worth Giving
12/05/14 -- It seems like only yesterday when a local radio announcer joked that there were only 200 more shopping days until Christmas. Already the holiday season is upon us, reminding me how fast time flies whether we...Full Story
High Cascades winter road closures begin12/04/14 -- It is that time of year again, when the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest wants to remind the public of the seasonal closure of Forest Service roads to motor vehicles, other than over-snow vehicles, on the High Cascades... Full Story
NPS directs Lava Beds to increase fees
Lassen offers ranger-led snowshoe walks12/03/14 -- Lassen Volcanic National Park is offering ranger-led Snowshoe walks starting Saturday and Sundays, January 3 through April 5, 2015 at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center from 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Ranger-led snowshoe... Full Story
Disaster Preparedness Strategies – Part II
11/25/14 -- Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of Disaster Preparedness articles written by Capt. William E. Simpson, USMM. The first was an attempt to simplify the subject of disaster preparedness by focusing on risk...Full Story
Christmas tree permits for SW Oregon11/24/14 -- It’s that time of year to start thinking of the annual family trip to the woods for a holiday tree. Christmas tree permits are officially available starting Monday, November 24, at Oregon’s Forest Service and Bureau of Land... Full Story
Splashing Salmon and Giant Sycamores
11/16/14 -- I’m sometimes asked if I had any favorite places to work during my twenty-one years supervising the warden force in western Shasta County. Lower Battle Creek immediately comes to mind--especially the tree...Full Story
Disaster Preparedness Strategies – Part I
RV Collision Repair Requires Multiple Skills
11/10/14 -- I do not know of any other vehicles that require as many multiple occupational skills to repair than a collision damaged RV, specifically motor homes and travel trailers. Steel and aluminum are used in the structural ...Full Story
Redding vacation planning guide available
Passing on the Tradition essay contest10/29/14 -- The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and California Wildlife Officer Foundation are again co-sponsoring the annual “Passing on the Tradition” essay contest for young hunters...Full Story
Making Friends With The Neighbors
10/14/14 -- There are few animals in nature that match the majestic beauty of a stallion running wild and free. They rule their territory by day and by night. Recently, my wife Laura and I decided to change adventures...Full Story
10/08/14 -- Southwest of Mt. Lassen lies a remote and largely forgotten piece of Cascade foothill region. Dark basaltic cliffs and pinnacles adorn inhospitable river canyons, carved by what is now Mill and Deer Creeks, through bad...Full Story
Tall Trees and Emerald Waters
10/06/14 -- Kathy and I recently attended the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) fall conference on the aptly-named Wild Rivers Coast. Stretching from Port Orford, Oregon to Klamath, California, the Wild.... Full Story
Five Mile Point Caves predate 'Clovis'10/03/14 -- The National Park Service has added the Paisley Five Mile Point Caves to the United States’ listing of the nation’s most important archaeological and historic sites. Situated near the town of Paisley in south...Full Story
Ringing in a New Water Year
09/29/14 -- It's time to make some water-related resolutions, because October 1 marks the beginning of a new water year. A "water year" is a term used by the U.S. Geological Survey and hydrologists to describe...Full Story
CA DFW has swan tours through January
How to Comply with Tow Chain LawsBy Don Stec
09/13/14 -- One of the most common mistakes trailer owners make is: Failure to properly attach a safety chain between a trailer and the towing vehicle. There seems to be a consensus by the general public that simply...Full Story
Above the CanopyArticle and photos by Steven T. Callan
09/06/14 -- Having had the pleasure and privilege of diving in California’s kelp forests from San Diego to Monterey, I would describe it as a surreal, almost religious experience -- witnessing underwater cathedrals rising...Full Story
Turtle Bay to showcase Toytopia
Trinidad Sea Kayaking
09/03/14 -- The thing I love most about guiding and coaching sea kayaking is sharing unique experience with others. The ocean is dynamic. It’s full of life and energy. One hundred yards from shore and you’re...Full Story
Lassen National Volcanic Park
07/21/14 -- Lassen National Park is one of the best kept secrets in the National Park system. It may be hard to call a place that has over 400,000 visitors a year a secret but compared to Yosemite’s 2.5 million and the 9.4...Full Story
Honey, Bees Can Make You Bumble!
07/21/14 -- It was a warm, sunny day in July, many, many years ago. In two months, I would officially be a teenager. As I recall, it was a Saturday, and our entire family had piled into two cars and we were headed...Full Story
Peak Bagging in WinterBy Jim Broshears
02/11/13 -- Peak bagging, according to peakbagging.com/ refers to climbing mountains. When a summit is reached, it is “bagged”. You don’t have to go to exotic locations to enjoy this sport, or even be an elite mountain climber...Full Story
Roaring Camp 1; Grumpy old man 0
05/31/14 – For a full seven day stretch last week, I was not a grumpy old man. I slipped into a happy trance. My wife, Antonnette and I spent the time at Roaring Camp Gold Mining Company in Pine Grove, California. I have... Full Story
The Mystery of the Middle Fork – Part III
04/09/14 -- Our search for Tuck’s lost meadow continued in 2013. After three previous trips and multiple days of searching, you might be wondering why we don’t just call it a day. Or possibly question why we have not... Full Story
Extreme Beam FlashlightsBy Gary Heffley
04/08/14 -- Let’s get right to the point Extreme Beam Flashlights are durable, dependable, have great tactical applications and outshines most of the competition. What’s that you say, you have looked at some of the competition...Full Story
The 'Death Wobble' -- Be Safe Not Sorry!
03/31/14 -- Death Wobble is not to be confused with a front-end shimmy or a wheel balance problem. A Death Wobble (DW) is very common on vehicles with a solid front axle. It has earned its name, not from mechanics but by vehicle... Full Story
The Mystery of the Middle Fork -- Part II
03/10/14 -- Our return to the Middle Fork of Feather River would take place in August of 2012. Having nearly 10 months to plan the next exploration, we, of course, waited until the last minute decide our course of action... Full Story
The Mystery of the Middle Fork -- Part I
02/15/14 -- Part #1 Exploring the Middle Fork of the Feather River -- Stories about hidden valleys, waterfalls, canyons and fishing are part of outdoor folklore. Most of these tales begin with “When I was a kid we went to this place” and...Full Story
Mendocino Weekend: Cave & Wave Kayaking
10/30/13 -- My first day paddle (Thursday October 24) from Russian Gulch to the town of Mendocino was calming after being in my truck for so long. The sun came out and warmed me up just enough so I wanted to land on... Full Story
BLM seeks input on use of OR public lands01/30/13 – Resource Management Plans or RMPs are a process in which the BLM is working with communities, to gain innovative ideas and to identify the latest natural resource research on how your Oregon public lands will...Full Story