Wandering Lizard
Northeastern California

An Online Magazine with Information relating to attractions, lodging, dining,
and travel resources in selected areas of California

Modoc County, California
Alturas

Alturas, California is the County Seat of Modoc County which is tucked up in the far northeastern corner of the state. It is a region that has been the home of the Pit River Indian tribe since before people in that part of the world started writing history books. (They are a diverse group of peoples that have been lumped together by the federal government into one tribe for administrative purposes.) These people pursued a hunter gather life style and one of their hunting techniques was to dig pits near the river for game to fall into. The river that flowed through their territory became known as the Pit River and the people that lived along it were called the Pit River Tribe.

The first Anglo-Europeans that moved through the region were probably fur trappers in the very early years of the nineteenth century. They were followed in the middle of the century by gold seekers and settlers. Two of the earliest were James and Pressley Dorris. They built a bridge across the Pit River and James stayed to build the first home in what became the community of Dorris Bridge. (Pressley went on to settle in another part of the county which became the town of Dorris.) James Dorris established a large ranch just outside of town and engaged in trading with the Indians and newly arrived settlers. A post office opened in 1871, and the name was changed to Dorrisville. In 1874, when Modoc County was formed, the name was changed to Alturas which is Spanish for a high mountain valley.

Today, Alturas is a medium sized town (2,827 residents in the 2010 census) with an economy based upon agriculture. The region around it is famous for hunting and fishing, but it is so remote that tourism is light. An important wildlife refuge is located on the southern side of town and there are important wilderness areas a short distance away.

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