Discovering Northern California
Modoc County California

Find a Taste of the Outdoors In Modoc County California

Never heard of Modoc County California? For a long time, that was the way Modocers wanted it! They love the wide-open spaces, the peace and tranquility, the beauty and the wildlife - and they wanted to keep it all to themselves.

And one can hardly blame them! With fewer than 10,000 residents (2.25 people per square mile), terrain that ranges from lava tubes and beds to forested mountains, lakes and valleys, rivers and streams, high desert, and wildlife refuges.

Modoc County California:
Alturas is the County Seat

With fewer than 2900 people, Alturas California is the only incorporated city in Modoc County - it's also the county seat.

Alturas hosts government offices for the county of Modoc, and it serves as headquarters to the Modoc National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge.

It's a natural as a starting point when you begin to explore Modoc County.

Established in the early 1870s as Dorris Bridge, Alturas was incorporated in 1901. You'll discover several historic buildings in Alturas, such as The Niles Theater, the Niles Hotel, and the Modoc County Courthouse.

It sits along the Pit River, on the site of a former Achumawi village, boasts an Indian Casino, the Desert Rose, and hosts the Fandango Days Celebration in early July and the Alturas Balloon Fest and Migratory Bird Festival mid-September.

Head to Modoc County California
To Find the Wide Open Spaces of the West

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The slogan that Modocers seem to like most when referring to their county is, "Where the West still lives," and it's exemplified by the wide-open spaces, the ranches and farms that almost outnumber the people, the cattle that do outnumber the people, and the friendliness of the folks.

Modocers love their great outdoors and they love to share it with us, inviting us up for some hunting and fishing (both are year-round adventures), horseback riding, cattle drives, and dude ranches, RVing, camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

Wildlife in Modoc County runs the gamut between ground squirrels, ground game birds, raptors, migratory waterfowl, and Sandhill Cranes, to Mule Deer, Pronghorn Antelope, Rocky Mountain Elk, and bear, to wild horses and burros.

Wilderness areas and wildlife refuges abound with South Warner Wilderness, Modoc National Forest, Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, Clear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Long Bell State Game Refuge, and the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Modoc County California:
Lava Beds and Lava Tubes

For more than half a million years, Medicine Lake Volcano has sent copious amounts of lava out over the landscape of parts of Modoc County.

Medicine Lake is a shield volcano, which means its eruptions consist mostly of fluid lava flows like the volcanoes of Hawaii.

The result of all this volcanic activity has been massive lava beds, lava tubes and caves, hot springs, and other geothermal energy resources. Visit Lava Beds National Monument to explore and learn about - not only the area's geologic features - but its Native American history as well.

Modoc County California:
Indian Wars and Internment Camps

The Modoc Wars

Like most of the state of California and the rest of the United States as well, Modoc County does not have a praiseworthy past history with the Native American tribes who lived here before the "White Man" came.

The tumultuous relationship between settlers and the tribes came to a head during the Winter of 1872-'73 when a small band of Modoc Indians, led by Native American, Captain Jack, was besieged by a much larger force of U.S. Army soldiers.

The conflict was called the Modoc Wars, and most of the battles took place inside what is now Lava Beds National Monument. The battlefields and important sites of the war, such as Thomas Wright Battlefield, Gillum Camp and Sheepy Ridge, Captain Jack's Stronghold, are preserved to this day - visit them along with the lava caves and tubes.

Japanese Internment Camps

Part of the reproachable legacy of World War II in the United States was the arrest and imprisonment of thousands of Japanese and Japanese American citizens in what were called War Segregation or War Relocation Camps.

The largest of these, called Tule Lake Segregation Center at the time, was created in Modoc County from a former Civil Conservation Corps camp, and later became a prison for German Prisoners of War.

Later renamed Tule Lake War Relocation Center, it became a National Monument along with eight other units in Hawaii and Alaska by Presidential proclamation in December 2008. View the exhibits, pick up maps and brochures, and take a tour of the facilities.

You won't find anything remotely resembling the the crowds, traffic or noise of city life in Modoc County, but what you will find is priceless. Come back soon for more about this fascinating area.

  • Things To Do in Modoc
    Historic sites, outdoor activities, geologic monuments... there's plenty to do!

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