Modoc County, California
Modoc County is a county located in California's far northeast corner, bounded by Oregon to the north and Nevada to the east. As of 2000, its population was 9,449. Its population in 2002 was estimated at 9,289. The county seat is Alturas, the county's only incorporated city.
Table of contents
The county derives its name from the Modoc tribe which lived at the Pit River headwaters. One historian suggests that the word modoc means "the head of the river." Another states that the word is derived from the Klamath word moatakni meaning "southerners," i.e., the people living south of the Klamath tribe. The county was and is home to four major tribal groups, the Klamath and Modoc, the Pit River or Achumawi, and the Paiute.
The Modoc War (or Lava Beds War) of the 1872-1873 brought worldwide recognition to Modoc during its protracted battles when over 500 of US Army soldiers were unable to overtake less than 55 Modoc warriors who hid themselves in the lava tubes that are now the Lava Beds National Monument. The War ended when Captain Jack shot General William Canby at a peacemaking session. Modoc warriors were apprehended, and were forced onto the Klamath Reservation in Oregon.
Settlement to the county began in earnest in the 1870s, with the timber, gold, agriculture, and railroad industries bringing most of the settlers into the area. The county was a crossroads for the Lassen Applegate Trail which brought settlers north from Nevada to the Oregon Trail and south to trails leading into California's central valley. Early settlers included the Dorris, Belli, Essex, Scherer, Trumbo, and Campbell families.
Several thousand acres just south of Newell, CA served as the temporary exile for thousands of Japanese-American citizens during World War II at the Tulelake Japanese internment camp. A historical marker still stands along Highway 139 in Newell.
There are 2.25 persons per mi², making this one of the most sparsely populated counties in California.
The county is very diverse geographically. The northwestern edge of the county is dominated by the Medicine Lake Highlands, the largest shield volacno on the U.S. West Coast. The Lava Beds National Monument lies partly within the northwest corner of the County. Also along the western edge of the county is the massive Glass Mountain lava flow. The southwestern corner of the county is a unique ecosystem of isolated hardwoods (oaks) and volcanic mountains with intermountain river valleys.
The northern half of the county is the Modoc Plateau, a 1 mile (1.6 km) high expanse of lava flows, cinder cones, juniper flats, pine forests, and seasonal lakes. Nearly 1 million acres (4,000 km²) of the Modoc National Forest lie on the plateau between the Medicine Lake Highlands in the west and the Warner Mountains in the east. The plateau supports large herds of mule deer (Odocoileus Hemionus), Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus Canadensis), and pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra Americana). There are also several herds of wild horses on the plateau. The Clear Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Long Bell State Game Refuge are located on the plateau as well. The Lost River watershed drains the north part of the plateau, while southern watersheds either collect in basin reservoirs or flow into the large Big Sage Reservoir, which sits in the center of the county.
Below the rim of the Plateau is Big Valley in the extreme southwest corner of the county, and the large Warm Springs Valley that forms the bottom of the Pit River watershed that runs through the county. The north fork and south fork of the Pit River come together just south of Alturas. The River collects hundreds of other small creeks as it flows south towards Lake Shasta.
The eastern edge of the county is dominated by the Warner Mountain Range. The Pit River originates in this mountain range. Hundreds of alpine lakes dot the range, all of which are fed by snowmelt and natural springs. East of the Warner Range is Surprise Valley and the western edge of the Great Basin.
Hot Springs and lava caves are common to Modoc County. There are some geothermal energy resources available in the county, though their viability is highly variable.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 9,449 people, 3,784 households, and 2,550 families residing in the county. The population density is 1/km² (2/mi²). There are 4,807 housing units at an average density of 0/km² (1/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 85.94% White, 0.69% Black or African American, 4.21% American Indian, 0.61% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 5.69% from other races, and 2.78% from two or more races. 11.51% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 3,784 households out of which 29.10% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.60% are married couples living together, 8.80% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.60% are non-families. 28.10% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.70% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.39 and the average family size is 2.91.
In the county the population is spread out with 25.60% under the age of 18, 5.70% from 18 to 24, 23.30% from 25 to 44, 27.70% from 45 to 64, and 17.60% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 42 years. For every 100 females there are 102.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 98.70 males.
The median income for a household in the county is $27,522, and the median income for a family is $35,978. Males have a median income of $30,538 versus $23,438 for females. The per capita income for the county is $17,285. 21.50% of the population and 16.40% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 29.70% of those under the age of 18 and 8.60% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Cities and towns
- Davis Creek
- Ft. Bidwell
- Lake City
- New Pine Creek