Leaving Alturas heading north on Highway 395 you’ll travel along the west side of the Warner Mountains. A few miles out of Alturas is the turn off to Cedarville, Highway 299 – see the ‘Cedarville and Surprise Valley’ road trip posting. On the left side of the highway is the upper reach of the Pit River (north fork) coming out of Goose Lake. In a wet year, this stream can look promising, but I believe it heats up too much to hold trout. This is mostly private ranch land so getting permission to enter is questionable.
There are few services between Alturas and Lakeview except for Davis Creek and New Pine Creek. Just pass Davis Creek, Goose Lake begins to come into view. Over the past few years, due to the drought, Goose Lake has been essentially empty. This year (’17), it may fill with the abundant moisture. The lake is an alkaline body of water like many of the lakes in area. The salinity is reportedly increasing to the point that most the fish are gone. I’ve been told that Cottonwood Creek, Willow Creek and New Pine Creek hold red band trout but, due to their rarity, are typically off-limits to fishermen.
The bulk of the Warner Mountains are in the Modoc National Forest. There are a few campgrounds but nothing to accommodate larger RV’s. One of the primary areas of interest in the Warner Mountains is the geography. The diversity of the rocks and minerals is said to be unmatched. I’m not much of a rock hound, but it’s easy to have your interest perked in such a setting. There are a couple of obsidian mines off road 47 at Davis Creek – go left or east. The taking of obsidian requires a permit from the forest service but it’s worth the effort. These permits can be had at the Davis Creek Store. Back in the area of the mines is Lassen Creek campground but the whole area is somewhat rough to navigate with a RV. Matsukate mushroom collecting is also a popular activity from early September to November and does require a permit. The Forest Service seems to be debating the use of off road vehicles ATV’s in many National Forests, but in Modoc forest they are allowed anywhere. Some National Forest areas have signage indicating the approved areas for riding, others not so much.
One of the best times to visit this area is in the fall when the aspen groves put on their show. The bright yellow leaves make the mountain sides glow. The fall is also deer and antelope season. The Modoc mule deer are prized for their size. It’s necessary to enter the Fish and Game draw for the chance to get a prized deer tag. I believe the antelope also require a tag. For updated information on any activity in Modoc National forest you can call the headquarters in Alturas at 530-233-581.
Traveling ahead on 395, you’ll come to Fandango Pass Road which goes over the Warners and drops into Surprise Valley. This was a principal route during the California gold rush often called the California Trail. Near Goose Lake the trail divided with the ‘Lassen cut-off’ heading along the Pit River south and the ‘Applegate cut-off’ heading west into southern Oregon. Ahead at New Pine Creek, which sits right on the state lines between California and Oregon, is the turn off to Lily and Lava lakes. These are small, alpine lakes loaded with Brook Trout. Camping is allowed and the mostly paved road leading in will accommodate moderate size RV’s. I like this area, which is lightly used, so don’t tell anyone.
Also in New Pine Creek is the turn off to Goose Lake State Park, part of the Goose Lake State Recreation Area. This is part of the Oregon state parks system and offers 28 shaded camp sites with electrical hook-ups for RV’s, hot showers, a dump station, and all the go with’s. While not directly on Goose Lake, the wildlife preserve stretches across a vast prairie land – good place to park it for the night or longer after a long day on the road. Make camp and explore the Warner Mountains.
Ahead on 395 is the town of Lakeview, Oregon. We always stop here for fuel, supplies, fishing licenses at the local hardware store, a good meal, information, and an occasional overnight stay in one of the many motels. If you like an evening drink, note that in Oregon booze is only available, aside from bars, at the State licensed stores. Lakeview is primarily a lumber mill and cattle raising community. From the history I’ve read, it was at one time, mostly the thirties thru the fifties, a fairly rowdy place on the week-ends. The cowhands, loggers, and miners would come in from the ‘outback’ and blow their pay at the saloons and brothels. As one old timer put it – “the place went to hell when they took the red lights off the whorehouses and put ‘em on the street corners”. This is rough country and easy to imagine the way things were.
From Lakeview, the highway splits in two directions. To the west is the road to Klamath Falls, Oregon or Highway 140. This is an interesting drive that skirts through and around the Fremont National Forest. We’ll deal with this as a separate trip. Continuing on 395 to the north is one of the most interesting road trips around – The Road to Steens Mountain.