No. 109 Chimney Rock - Modoc County, CA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member thebeav69
N 41° 33.931 W 120° 26.469
10T E 713361 N 4604700
Quick Description: This historic landmark is located just west of Hwy 395 and near railroad tracks.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 9/7/2014 12:32:30 AM
Waymark Code: WMME0N
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 4

Long Description:
Located just off Hwy 395 heading north to Lakeview, OR or south to Alturas, CA is a natural pryramid-shaped structure that contains an official California Historical Marker that reads:

SITE OF PIONEER CABIN BUILT BY
THOMAS A. DENSON IN 1871
THIS MARKER IS DEDICATED TO THE
PIONEERS OF MODOC COUNTY BY
ALTURAS PARLOR 159
NATIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE
GOLDEN WEST
SEPTEMBER 21 1932

What's as much exciting as the chimney (or even more so), is the scratches of names of settlers to the area who've left their mark here on this rock formation. Of course there's also modern graffiti here too, but if you look closely, you can decipher names that people don't go by anymore. In addition, some of the dates under the names go back to the late 1800s. I located a few websites that highlight the history of this site in more detail. One article in particular from the Herald and News newspaper in Klamath Falls, OR has the following to say about the significance of this historic site:

Indent from chimney of cabin built in 1870 can still be seen on rock

Early Modoc County settler built structure’s back wall against rock

ALTURAS — Life was tough for Modoc County’s earliest settlers, but for Thomas L. Denson, who built a pioneer cabin alongside the North Fork of the Pit River seven miles north of present-day Alturas, the tuff was soft enough.

Denson’s tuff times are remembered at Chimney Rock, the place where Denson erected his cabin. The site is marked with a brass plaque dedicated in 1932 by the Native Daughters of the Golden West, and Chimney Rock is listed as California Historic Landmark 109. It’s just a short distance off Highway 395, which runs north-south between Alturas and Lakeview.

According to the landmark designation, Denson built his cabin in 1870, the Pit River Valley’s second building. A master stone craftsman by trade, he built the cabin’s back wall against a pyramid-shaped rock. He hand-carved a prominent fireplace and 1-1/2-foot-wide, 8-inch-deep chimney flue in the light-colored, relatively soft-surfaced rhyolite volcanic ash, also known as tuff.

The fireplace mantle has mostly eroded away and broken off, but the meticulously gouged chimney flue remains clearly visible.

No traces of the cabin exist. Some historians theorize it may have been standing when railroad tracks were laid alongside the cabin, or cabin site, in 1908. Those tracks are used by the Lake County Railroad, the 55-mile long Lake County-owned railroad that connects Lakeview and Alturas.

History of Denson’s cabin

Modoc County Museum records reveal little about Denson, other than he was 12 years old when his family traveled to the Modoc region in 1852.

Other reports indicate Denson “entertained” various wayfarers at his cabin, including Captain Jack and Scarface Charley, who gained fame and notoriety as leaders in the Modoc Indian War.

According to one story, the two sought shelter on a bitterly cold winter night while fleeing from soldiers from Fort Bidwell. Denson allowed Jack and Charley to sleep in front of the fireplace while he remained awake through the night with a Winchester rifle cradled across his knee. Jack and Charley left at daybreak, reportedly after unsuccessfully trying to pry the rifle from their wary host.

Captain Jack’s and Scarface Charley’s names aren’t there, but the names, initials and dates — including one indicating 1881 — of pioneers and more recent passersby are carved in Chimney Rock’s pliable tuff.

Just steps from Chimney Rock are more oddities created from hardened volcanic ash — pinnacles that stand 15 to 20 feet tall. Geologists have their theories, but as an accompanying story relates, Pit River Indian legends offer a far more fanciful explanation of how the pinnacles were created.

Visiting Chimney Rock and the pinnacles requires only an easy detour.

If traveling from Alturas, watch for signs indicating “Chimney Rock” along Highway 395 about seven miles north of town, turn left and follow a gravel road six-tenths of a mile. Use caution walking to Chimney Rock, which is on the west side of the railroad tracks. The pinnacles are on the east side of the tracks.

Since a visit requires only a brief detour, because the dirt road parallels the highway, Chimney Rock is not a tuff place to find.


Another online link contains some nice pictures of this historic site as well. It should also be noted that there is another historical 'T' marker located near this historical plaque and highlights the Lassen Trail that brought incoming settlers into the area in the mid-1800s.

Another great writeup on this historic site can be found via the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website and it reads:

Thomas Denson was one of the first pioneers to settle in the Pit River Valley in Modoc County. In 1852, Denson headed west across the United States by way of the Santa Fe Trail when he was only 12 years of age and settled along the north fork of the Pit River.

He was a master craftsman by trade and built a crude log cabin around a pyramid-shaped rock, and cut his fireplace out of the rock itself. Meticulously carved, this unusually shaped sandstone formation served as a flue for Denson’s fireplace. In 1871, Thomas Denson’s cabin was complete. It would also become the second building to be erected in the Pit River Valley. Although the cabin doesn’t exist anymore, the rock formation has been preserved as a California Historical Landmark (No. 109) indicated by a marker which was dedicated to the pioneers of Modoc County by Alturas Parlor 159 Native Daughters of the Golden West on September 21, 1932.

The Chimney Rock Historical Monument is located along the Emigrant Trails Scenic Byway, approximately 7.5 miles north of Alturas off of Hwy 395. A dirt road leads down to the monument right next to the railroad where you can leisurely explore the grounds. To the west is the Pit River Tribe - XL Indian Reservation. Chimney Rock is the ancestral territory of the Kosealekte Band of the Pit River Tribe. To the east are the Warner Mountains and the Modoc National Forest, which offer many recreational opportunities, a panorama of beautiful scenic vistas, and endless wildlife photographic opportunities. While there is limited recreation right next to the Chimney Rock Historical Monument, you can spread out in the vast and wide open Modoc forestland for horseback riding, hiking, biking, swimming, camping, hang gliding, para sailing, hunting, fishing, rock hounding, star gazing, OHV explorations, birding and so much more.


Marker Number: 109.00

Marker Name: Chimney Rock

County: Modoc

Has Official CA Plaque: no

Marker Dedication Date: 9/21/1932

Website: [Web Link]

Location: Not listed

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