Towns of Modoc County, California

Adin – See Big Valley.


As the seat of Modoc County, Alturas lies in the broad valley of the Pit River, near the center of the county. Alturas was originally called Dorris Bridge, after the Dorris brothers who first settled here in 1870. 1871 was a booming settlement year, and by February 1873 there were between 150 and 200 residents in the Pit River valley. Dorris Bridge began to take on the aspects of a bona fide town in 1873. An important early development was the public meeting hall. It was also used as a dance hall, theater, courthouse and church, and it unquestionabily increased the community’s prestige. In the year 1876, the community was renamed Alturas, which is Spanish for “Valley on Top of a Mountain.” First the post office changed its name, then the school district officially became Alturas, followed by the entire town. A visiting correspondent of the Reno Journal declared that the “little mountain town [is] . . . about the liveliest camp in the country”. Today, the city is located at the junction of Highways 395 and 299, which place it on a north-south line between the Pacific Northwest and California’s large population centers of Sacramento and Los Angeles. Alturas Municipal Airport provides charter flights to and from the Alturas area.

Big Valley

Big Valley is nestled between high mountain peaks in the southern Cascade mountain range, in the southwest corner of Modoc County and northwest corner of Lassen County. It is one of the most picturesque and unspoiled areas remaining in California. It is here that one finds small towns with mid-western appeal, offering most of the services available in a city while still retaining an away from it all atmosphere. Prime agricultural and timberland, lakes, mountain streams and miles of inland waters offer number fishing, hunting and other recreational opportunities. The communities of Big Valley (Adin, Bieber, Nubieber and Lookout) offer a complete range of business services. Adin, Bieber and Lookout have services for gas, diesel and propane. Adin and Bieber have food, clothing and most of your basic needs. Adin and Bieber also offer a full range of dining and lodging services. Adin, Bieber and Lookout all have community recreation parks in town. Bieber has an historical museum. Alfalfa hay is Big Valley?s major agricultural crop, in addition grass and grain hay are grown. Their high mountain quality is second to none. Several thousand head of fine cattle and sheep are pastured here year around.


This area was settled in 1869 by the Hess family followed by the Pope?s in 1870. At that time it was called Warm Springs Valley, probably for the nearby hot springs. In 1874, the name was changed to Canby with the appointment of James Pope as the first postmaster. General E. R. S. Canby, for whom the town was named, was killed in 1873 during the Modoc Indian War at the Lava Beds. This was and still is a ranching community, but in the middle 1930?s the timber industry played an important factor in the growth of the town, and it became more than just ?a wide spot in the road.? At one time there were two mills operating here, along with two logging camps, sixteen miles of rail logging and a gandy dancer crew, and Canby was on it?s way. The population grew to nearly 700 and there were over 100 students enrolled in the Arlington School. There was a cook and boarding house for the workers, a hotel, two stores, a service station, two bars and a community hall. In 1966, the mill, then owned by Loveness Brothers, was destroyed by fire and Canby?s heyday was over. Families moved away in search of employment, but to those old timers who still live here, they have their memories of those days gone by. (Velma McCrary, 1997)


Originally called Deep Creek, Cedarville was a camping place for wagon trains. Settled about 1864, William Cressler and John Bonner were running the trading post by 1867. This trading post can be seen at Cedarville Park. These men were instrumental in developing the town. They also built the first road over Cedar Pass. By 1880 Cedarville’s population was 220 and it was the largest town in the valley. Historic buildings still line Main Street, housing many interesting businesses. Less than a mile south of Cedarville is access to the South Warner Wilderness Area via Deep Creek Road at Pepperdine Station. Aside from agriculture, major employers in the town are the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the schools and the hospital. Local merchants and businesses also provide employment. The town has both doctor and dentist, drug store with full-time pharmacist, a senior citizens center, grocery stores, auto parts outlets, lumber mill, service station, auto repair shops, gift boutiques, several eating establishments, a bed and breakfast inn, two motels, recreational vehicle parks, trailer court, and laundromat. Centrally located, Cedarville is the hub of the Valley. Cedarville is also home to the Modoc District Fairgrounds, where the refurbished collection of historic buildings called Louieville can be seen. Each year the fair is host to the Warner Mountains Roundup Rodeo in June, the District Fair every August, and the Frontier Christmas Fair in November. The fairground is available as an event center throughout the year and has one hundred recreational vehicle hook-ups, tennis courts, stables, showers, livestock facilities, kitchen and BBQ area, grandstand arena, meeting rooms and more.

Davis Creek


Tome Bare, believed to be the first homesteader in Surprise Valley, settled near Eagleville. The bald eagles that gave the town its name can still be seen each spring

roosting high in the cottonwood trees. Once an important stage stop on the road north from Reno, Eagleville is now home to a store-deli, a pool hall, and a community center that was once the general store. The area is dotted with hot springs. Excellent fishing is found at East Creek, Sworinger Reservior and Bare Creek.

Fort Bidwell

Fort Bidwell was founded as a military post in 1865 and named in honor of an early pioneer, General Bidwell. The fort encouraged businesses such as sawmills, stores, and hotels. About 1905 gold was discovered in the northern Warner Mountains. A mining town called High Grade sprung up in a canyon above Ft. Bidwell and a short-lived rush was on. The fort closed in 1892 and was used by the Department of Interior as an Indian School. The Fort Bidwell Native

American community hosts an annual Cultural Gathering Pow Wow. Many historic sights remain in Fort Bidwell – Fort Bidwell church, was erected circa 1885 and still holds regular services. Fort Bidwell General Store was built in 1874 of stone from Bidwell Canyon, a virtual fireproof fortress, and remains one of the longest continuously operating stores in the state. Fort Bidwell Hotel and Restaurant opened in the early 1900s and operates today as both hotel and dinner house. At the north end of Main Street is a stone schoolhouse erected in 1917. Students now attend school in Cedarville. Remnants of the bank vault, established in 1907 are seen on Main Street next to Kober’s Dry Goods Store. Fort Bidwell is the gateway to the North Warner Mountains. Four miles south of Fort Bidwell is Fandango Pass Road, following the emigrant trail over the Warners to Goose Lake. Surprise Valley views are spectacular. Northwest from Fort Bidwell is County Road 2, winding through the historic Highgrade mining area, past recreation areas of Cave and Lily Lakes and west to New Pine Creek. Also accessible from Fort Bidwell are Lake Annie and Fee Reservior, which offer fine fishing. It is a scenic drive from Fort Bidwell to Adel, Oregon, with abundant trout streams along the way.

Lake City

Founded in 1864, Lake City was the first organized community in the area, and had the first saw mill, the first grist mill, the first school and the first wedding in the county. The flouring mill, constructed in 1867 still stands. The “49er” emigrant trail passed near Lake City and wagon tracks remain in some places. Geothermal activity is present around Lake City and offers a potential source of clean power. In 1951 there was an eruption spewing debris thousands of feet up from the mud volcanoes in the area. There is access to the Warner Mountains via Lake City Canyon Road along the scenic creek.


Site of the Infamous Lookout Lynching, one of the most publicized cases ever tried in the west, when five men were hung in the spring of 1901. Over 25 men from the Lookout area were charged with the murder of the five men. In November 1901, one man was chosen to be indicated by the Grand Jury as a test case. His trial lasted over 90 days, and brought much unfavorable publicity to Modoc County. A ?not Guilty? verdict was rendered, after some extenuating circumstances were pointed out. All other indictments were dismissed after the one trial. Also see Big Valley.

New Pine Creek

Surprise Valley

Surprise Valley lies in the northeastern most corner of California, adjacent to both Nevada and Oregon. The valley is bounded on the west by the Warner Mountains and by the Hayes Range on the east. Once covered by prehistoric Lake Surprise, this area of the Great Basin is rich in geological history. Rockhounds and sighteers will delight at impressive rock formations, such as the Bear and the Honey Pot, and may discover obsidian depostis, fossils, or petrified wood as you explore. Active geothermal areas and hot springs dot the valley as well. Long the home of the Paiute, the valley was first settled as a result of drought in the Sacramento Valley in 1863. The emigrant trail to California and Oregon passed through the valley and it is estimated that over 300,000 settlers used this route. Surprise Valley is now home of approximately 1,500 residents, many of whom are fourth and fifth generation valleyites. Agriculture has been the mainstay of the four valley communities. Cattle ranching and alfalfa hay production are still the leading enterprises. Cattle drives still take place across open terrain and along valley byways. At an average elevation of 4,700 feet, the valley is approximately 70 miles long and averages 10 miles wide. Average precipitation ranges from 12 to 16 inches, with average accumulated snow depth of 18 inches or less in the winter. Mean temperatures range from 30 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 71 degrees in summer. The growing season is 100 to 130 days and most vegetable strive in this climate. Cattle, sheep and horses are common livestock, with llamas and yaks at the other end of the spectrum. The valley has its own school district, with both elementary and high schools; and a hospital district, with clinic, and acute and long term hospital care available. The is also an airport, Modoc District Fairgrounds, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices, Cedarville Park, many churches (some historic), and much more – Also see Fort Bidwell, Lake City, Cedarville, Eagleville.

Willow Ranch

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