Forest Products Permits


The removal of artifacts or disturbance of a prehistoric archaeological site is a violation of federal law and can carry significant penalties.  Many people are familiar with flakes and arrowheads but, rocks stacked on top of each other can also be an artifact. 

Collection Season is Closed

The obsidian collection season starts on July 1 and ends on Labor Day.



Obsidian is dense volcanic glass typically black in color. Compared with window glass, obsidian is rich in iron and magnesium. It often forms in rhyolite lava flows where the lava cools so fast crystals do not have time to grow. Glass, unlike crystal, has no regular molecular structure and fractures in smooth conchoidal (curved) shapes. When broken the edges can be 1/100,000,000 centimeter thick, sharper than a razor blade. Historically, obsidian was used by many native cultures to make arrowheads  and tools. Today surgeons sometimes use obsidian scalpels instead of steel to reduce tissue damage.

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  • How to get a permit?

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    Permits are issued to adults 18 years or older and are valid for 1 day only. A permit authorizes the permittee to collect two 5-gallon buckets, or equivalent volume, of obsidian. Only hand tools are allowed. An individual can be issued a maximum of three permits per year. Permits can be issued up to three days in advance. Permits are issued only at the Modoc National Forest Headquarters at 225 W. 8th St. in Alturas, Calif. Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Valid picture identification is required for each individual seeking permits. Collection permits for weekends and holidays must be obtained on days Forest Headquarters is open. Collecting obsidian is for personal use only. Due to rampant theft and irresponsible practices, permits for commercial mining are no longer available for obsidian.

    On the Modoc National Forest, obsidian excavation may be done during the open season under a Free Use Authorization at any of the four designated common use areas: Lassen Creek Rainbow Mine, Needles Mine, Middle Fork Davis Creek Mine, Pink Lady Mine. Excavation is allowed at these locations only. The Free Use Authorization allows a visitor to collect obsidian for their own personal use. Collection for resale is a violation of the Free Use Authorization permit.

  • Where to collect obsidian?

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    The volcanic deposits found in the Warner Mountains come in many forms. From the light weight pumice sometimes called “floating rocks” to the dense, glass-like obsidian, the colors and diversity are amazing. The Warner Mountains are famous for the variety of obsidian and for the four mines where folks can, with a permit, collect it. The four mines, Pink Lady, Lassen Creek Rainbow, Needles and Middle Fork Davis Creek are all located within a few miles of US Hwy 395 near the Oregon border.

  • What colors variations are found at Modoc NF?

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    Microscopic minerals in obsidian cause a variation of color. The different colors depend on the oxidation state of elements in the minerals. Black color results chiefly from Magnetite (Fe304). Sometimes the Magnetite will occur in thin layers which results in shimmer with intense color. Highly oxidized obsidian may contain the mineral hematite given the obsidian a reddish hue (mahogany). Other oxidation states of iron impart a slight greenish hue. Obsidian deposits in the Warner Mountains have an iridescence that is formed by the mineral pyroxene. 

    The iridescent colors can be found at all 4 sites. Middle Fork Davis Creek and the Rainbow site are known for multiple colors. Pink The colors of obsidian range from jet black, to grey, to pink. Rainbow obsidian, found at the Rainbow mine and Middle Fork Davis Creek is sought after for its colorful sheen. Pink obsidian from Pink Lady and the bundles of obsidian needles from the Needles Mine are most popular.

Take a look at more stunning Obsidians from California in this recent article by clicking here.



Mushroom Picking

Other than Matsutake mushrooms (read below for Matsutake information), five gallons/person/day may be collected for personal use without a permit. Mushrooms that are commonly found on the forest are morel, shaggy mane and bolete.

  • No raking or scraping of ground surface or disturbance of the mushroom parent material allowed when harvesting mushrooms.
  • Tools for harvesting will not exceed 1" (one inch) wide and 18" (eighteen inches) long.

Matsutake mushrooms may be collected only on a commercial permit. Matsutake season usually runs from early September through early November. Permits may be purchased for 5 days, 7 days, 30 days or the full season. For Matsutake permit prices, rules and exact collection dates contact the nearest District Office. Permits must be purchased in person and identification is required.


Please call the District Office for the area in which you plan to collect for more information.