The Mysterious, Mystical Mount Konocti

Mount Konocti at a Distance
picture taken by Nelson Symes

How about a hidden underground lake or blind fish with no eyes or maybe the fact that rain that never drains off Mount Konocti, with even more mysteries to read about the legendary volcano.

Mount Konocti is not an extinct volcano but rather it is a dormant volcano. Mount Konocti is a silicic volcano meaning that the magma it produces has a high quality of silica in it. This results in a far more explosive volcano, rather than the peaceful lava flows of Hawaii. In fact, Mount Konocti has a highly explosive history with many of the mountains between Mount Konocti and Ukiah are the results of lava flows and ash piles from historic eruptions. Mount Konocti is fault controlled, which means that as this stretch of land is pulled apart and thinned by tensional forces to the magma chamber are controlled by the motions of the faults.

Mount Konocti has five main peaks. Wright Peak at 4,299 feet, Howard Peak at 4,286 feet, South Peak at 4,050 feet, Buckingham Peak at 3,967 feet and Clark Peak at 2,850 feet. The name for this enormous volcano comes from the Pomo words “Knoktai” taken from “Kno” for mountain and “Hatai” for woman. To many, the mountain shape appears as a reclining woman.

For the history buffs you will be thrilled at the sight of the Mary Downen cabin, built in 1903. It was the first homesteader cabin built by western pioneers on the mountain. The cabin to this day remains untouched from the original condition from more than 110 years. The grave of her son, Euvelle Howard, rests 200 yards away, his epitaph chiseled onto a boulder.

Mount Konocti at 4,300 feet sits on the south shore of Clear Lake and is a massive multi-summited lava dome volcano with a volcanic field which includes a collection of small domes and cones spreading to the south. The area is still considered active with potential threat by the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) but is currently normal.

Beautiful views from Mount Konocti
Photograph by Nathan DeHart

Because of the isolation on one of North Americas largest freshwater lakes with the volcanic field that spreads out to the south, and looking at the west and east side has great unobstructed views. The nearly 360 degree views includes most of the mountains and ridges of the Mayacamas Range from the south to the west, and the Mendocino National Forest to the north with the Cache Creek Wilderness, Cortina and Blue Ridges to the east. You can see almost all 70 square miles of the massive Clear Lake. On some days, you can see well into the Sacramento Valley some 50 miles away.

An intriguing fact is that it is a proven geological phenomenon that when it rains on Mount Konocti that the water never drains into any creek or river but that the water is absorbed into the volcanic mountain. The Pomo Indians said that the water drains into underground caves and then into a vast hidden lake beneath the mountain.

Satellite sonar imagery tests have determined that there is indeed a large opening beneath the mountain. It is believed that the base of Mount Konocti has an underground magma chamber which is believed to be filled with Clear Lake water. It is believed to be possibly one of the largest magma chambers on earth, but it is difficult to prove this because the volcano core is unstable and eroding.

It is reported in an article published in the magazine of the California Academy of Science, that Julianne Poirier Locke that inside Mount Konocti’s magma chambers is possibly the worlds largest cavern and tallest volcanic shaft that still waits discovery. Lake County Historian, Henry Mauldin said that those who crawled into a cave of Mount Konocti found that it had an extended horizontal tunnel that ended at a vertical shaft. They dropped painted cans and marked sticks when dropped into the vertical shaft that they never heard it hit the bottom, but weeks later the marked sticks were floating in Clear Lake. Since that time the vertical shaft has never been rediscovered and that the vertical drop may be the tallest underground vertical drop on Earth and possibly is over 2,000 feet straight down.

Legend has it that in 1818 there was a very severe drought that brought the lake level down low enough that Pomo Indians entered on the east side inhabited by blind fish with no eyes. The cave has never been rediscovered since.

Mount Konocti Park, is more than 1,500 beautiful and unspoiled acres of high elevation of natural scenery that has many species of birds found there including bald eagles. Mount Konocti’s Park was recently purchased by the County and transformed it into public land, with hiking trails that feature orchards, ancient forest with ancient oaks and miles of mystical obsidian.

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