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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, volcanic, warner mountains, Jean Bilodeaux, arrowheads, mine, myoutdoorbuddy.com Frank galusha, Obsidian Mines in Modoc worth a visit

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.

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Mule deer in the rut, Carrie Wilson, California Outdoors
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Left to right: Lynn Loacker and Senior Trooper James Collom
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lava Beds information panels
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Winning photo in fishing category: Greg Yamada’s self-portrait is titled “Fly-fishing the South Fork McKenzie River.”
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rattle snake coiled
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Light Your Way by John Higley
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Low water conditions with boats clustered among the high banks of a lake. chuck giles
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Article and photos by Don Stec
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Jim Broshears, Mt. Lassen view from Brokeoff Mountain
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The outdoor edge author badge for Don Webster, myoutdoorbuddy.com
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horseback riding trails, marble mountain, phil akers
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 This is a better pic of Antonnette at the sluice box.
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Northern California Fishing News, Northern California Hunting Reports

Fishing News

Northern California and Southern Oregon offer superb fresh and saltwater fishing. Before you make a trip, make sure you have
up-to-date news about where the fish are biting!

Hunting News

This region is also famous for its world-class hunting opportunities. Make sure you are armed with the absolute latest news by checking
the reports being filed daily at MyOutdoorBuddy.com.

Northern California Outdoor News, Northern California Outdoor Reports Outdoor News 

If you like to explore the great outdoors your choices are essentially infinite in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Use our news pages to plan your next outing!

Northern California Destination News, Northern California Destination Reports

Destinations

So many places to visit and so little time, but if you scan
these pages you'll know in advance what lies ahead and what
not to miss in the almost-mythical State of Jefferson.
Buddy Photos

You are there! Towering mountains, vast valleys, unique shorelines. Land, water and air bursting with life. Opportunity presents itself. Llghting is right. Click! An image is captured for the ages.

Photo Galleries, MyOutdoorBuddy.com

Photo Galleries

A preview of coming attractions...if you are planning a trip to this area be forewarned: What photographers have captured will whet your appetite for what will be an outdoor journey filled with wonders.  

Product & Services Directory

Don't let anything come between you and a wonderful weekend, vacation or or auto tour in this region. The fine product and services providers listed here will have what you need to enjoy your visit.  

Come back to MyOutdoorBuddy.com for more Northern California and Southern Oregon fishing, hunting and outdoor news, reports, information, opinions and photos.

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