Warner Mountains — whitebark pines and beyond

Warner Mountains
Conifers of the Warner Mountains. Maps from Conifers of the Pacific Slope.

The Warner Mountains are a north-south trending fault block range in the northeastern corner of California, extending northward into Oregon. The length of the range is approximately 90 miles, with the northern California portion bounded by Goose Lake on the west and Surprise Valley on the east. In California, elevations range between 5,000-9,897 feet (on Eagle Peak). In the High Grade district, which is the extreme northern limits of the Warners in California, the range has a fairly even crest of 7500 feet, reaching an elevation of 8290 feet on Mount Bidwell. This is the area where I spent four days mapping and monitoring whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) for the US Forest Service.

The geology of the region is complex and compelled me to understand it better. Bedrock consists of sedimentary rocks of the Oligocene overlain by rhyolitic to basaltic volcanic rocks of the Miocene. The basal andesite is overlain by rhyolite and glassy rhyolite, which are in turn overlain by basalt flows. There are valuable minerals and gems found in this area that have justified a long-standing history of mining. Gold was the first and major extracted mineral soon followed by opals, petrified wood, and even obsidian. The range is a complex assemblage of interesting rocks for sure which help sculpt the regional ecology.

The northern Warner Mountains have a long history of mining.

My July 2018 trip is a part of a follow up study to work we started in 2012, supported by the US Forest Service Region 5 in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society (me!).  On this trip, I was able to visit sites that I did not in 2012. These were all areas that I predicted to have stands of whitebark pine but that had never been documented. What follows are images and captions from the journey.

Thunderstorms roll through the northern Warner Mountains.
Yellow Mountain holds a small grove of Pinus albicaulis on the exposed west slopes.
Mount Bidwell, the highest and longest contiguous ridgeline in the north Warners, holds the largest stands of whitebark pine. Unfortunately, some of these stands experienced upwards of 50% mortality in 2008-09 from mountain pine beetles.
Several areas have serpentine-like savannas that hold Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa (formeraly Washoe pine).
A botany crew from the Modoc National Forest joined me for a day of surveying. Here we scale Bald Mountain.
A whitebark pine on Bald Mountain, looking toward the Surprise Valley.

A few other highlights:

8 Replies to “Warner Mountains — whitebark pines and beyond”

  1. We camped recently at Burney Falls and thought we’d take a day trip to the obsidian mines but with road work delays it took 2 1/2 hours to get to Juniper Junction. At the store there we were told we still had 2 hours to reach the mountains so we headed south on 139 to Eagle Lake.
    It was deserted, not a boat or swimmer anywhere on the 2nd largest lake in California. It seemed like every other house was for sale at the north end of the lake. It was serenely beautiful. I plan on heading for the Warner mountains hopefully this fall.

  2. Thanks for the pictures. You improved my day. That is the hike I have been dreaming of for about twenty years. I think Fandango Pass next spring. Hope it doesn’t burn up this summer. Darn beetles.

  3. I would love to go out there! If anyone needs a hiking buddy, contact me through this site…. perhaps. Joan Dunning

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