Blackreach, also known as Fal’Zhardum Din in the all-but-forgotten Dwemer language, is a massive cavern hidden beneath the ruins of several lost Dwemer cities. A blend of mystical and magical nature and Dwarven architecture, Blackreach is one of Skyrim‘s coolest-looking and most fascinating locales.
There are a lot of resources inside Blackreach ripe for the taking and plenty of enemies who want you dead. It’s also easy to get lost in this place which isn’t ideal for you. Since, you know, the whole bad guys wanting you dead bit.
Going to Blackreach without a game plan is a great way to get killed. There are a few things you should bring along for the ride and one item you need to bring. There are also some level recommendations to make combat less of a death sentence and looting more profitable.
For more reasons than one, you’ll likely have little to no reason to come back to Blackreach after making a full sweep of the place. So, let’s do it right the first time. Make sure you have as empty an inventory as possible and let’s explore Blackreach.
Blackreach is a massive cavern beneath three Dwemer ruins: Alftand, Mzinchaleft, and Raldbthar. Alftand is southwest of Winterhold, Mzinchaleft is southwest of Dawnstar, and Raldbthar is southwest of Windhelm. I guess the Dwemer’s favorite direction was southwest.
You can enter Blackreach from any of these three ruins, but you need the Attunement Sphere to get inside. You need to seek out Septimus Signus and begin the Discerning the Transmundane quest. He’ll give you the Attunement Sphere you need. Once you’ve got it, head to the deepest part of one of these three ruins and place the Attunement Sphere on a Dwarven Mechanism to unlock the way.
Once inside Blackreach, there are multiple lifts that take you to the surface and can act as shortcuts back into Blackreach from that point on. You must first activate these lifts from inside Blackreach before they’re useable. They each have their own map markers, so they’re easy to find.
When you’ve made your way down here, buckle up. There’s a lot of ground to cover outside and plenty of interior locations to explore.
As a Morrowind lover, I adore Blackreach’s exterior, specifically the gigantic mushrooms. They’re the closest Skyrim gets to the Telvanni mushroom towers in Morrowind.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s a look at Blackreach with and without the glow-in-the-dark RGB lighting action. When you get done admiring the view, let’s get to the important aspects of Blackreach’s exterior.
Blackreach is home to many Falmer, Dwarven Centurions, a couple of wisps, Charus, a lone wispmother, two frost trolls, a single giant, and one standout creature we’ll get to later.
Most Falmer are either inside one of the many structures inside Blackreach or in one of their huts. If entering Blackreach via Alftand, be wary of the Falmer hut west of Alftand’s Blackreach entry. It’s bugged, and if you go inside it to kill the Falmer or loot the hut, you’ll be unable to get back out.
The Dwarven Centurions are the most dangerous enemies down here but also the easiest to avoid. They’re always inside one of their Dwarven power stations, and it’s easy to kit around them.
There are dozens of ore veins scattered throughout Blackreach. There are about 14 corundum ore veins, which, while not the rarest ore out there, is still good to have. There are six ebony ore veins down here, ebony ore being in relatively short supply until you’re overflowing with gold, so that’s nice. There is also a couple of silver, quicksilver, gold, orichalcum, and moonstone ore veins each.
But the most important ore veins down in Blackreach are the geode ore veins. There are around 36 geode ore veins down here.
These glowing blue ore veins are unique to Blackreach and can give you one of four items when you mine them: corundum ore, ebony ore, precious gems, or soul gems. Some geode ore veins will only have corundum ore, but most have chances of dropping soul gems.
Remember when I said earlier that there are some level recommendations before heading into Blackreach? The geode ore veins are mostly why. While you can receive soul gems for geode ore veins at any level, the max possible rarity of the soul gem is level-dependent.
I recommend being at least level 18 before coming here, as by then, you’ll have a chance to receive black soul gems from geode ore veins. Of course, the higher the level, the better. Level 30/31 is the sweet spot for grand and black soul gems.
Another reason you should hold up going to Blackreach until you’re at a higher level is due to Skyrim being Skyrim. Bethesda’s iconic last installment in the Elder Scrolls series has more bugs than an Aburame Clan housewarming party.
While the geode ore veins down in Blackreach are supposed to respawn after ten days, that’s not always the case. Some resources take a little longer than ten days to respawn. Others take a lot longer than ten days to respawn.
Some never respawn. So it’s best to come here with the best possible chances of obtaining the best loot because there might not be much of a second opportunity.
Crimson nirnroot, like geode ore veins, are exclusive to Blackreach. They are almost identical to standard nirnroot, outside their red appearance. They’re just as easy to find as they give off the same glow and make the same chiming noise.
Crimson nirnroot possesses the same four alchemical effects as the standard nirnroot: Damage Health, Damage Stamina, Invisibility, and Resist Magic. What makes the crimson nirnroot stand out is its’ Damage Health and Damage Stamina effects which are three times as strong as those on the standard nirnroot.
Outside the one-time-only Jarrin Root, obtainable from a late-game Dark Brotherhood quest, the crimson nirnroot has the most potent Damage Health effect of any alchemical ingredient at 6 points for 1 second.
There are 44 crimson nirnroot in total in Blackreach. Like geode ore veins, they suffer from issues of delayed respawn times or never respawning at all. Since crimson nirnroots have limited quantity and, like the nirnroot, don’t benefit from the Green Thumb Alchemy perk, be careful how you use them.
Harvesting a crimson nirnroot for the first time will start the quest A Return To Your Roots.
Sinderion’s Field Laboratory
Anyone who has played Oblivion will likely recognize the name Sinderion. He was Oblivion’s resident Master Alchemy trainer. And yes, this laboratory belongs to the very same Altmer. Or did, as poor Sinderion is just a skeleton now.
Sinderion mastered the nirnroot and was here to study and uncover the secrets of the crimson nirnroot. If you’ve yet to harvest a crimson nirnroot yourself, reading Sinderion’s field journal will start A Return To Your Roots.
Sinderion’s Field Laboratory is full of goodies that Sinderion doesn’t need anymore. There’s De Rerum Dirennis, an Alchemy skill book, and some Leather Boots of Hauling, a decent pair of Fortify Carry Weight boots if you don’t have any.
There are some Dwemer items, potions, soul gems, and a wealth of Alchemy ingredients, including a rare Daedra heart. There’s also an extra Attunement Sphere in here, though you only need one, so this is a glorified arcane paperweight.
Sinderion’s field shack also has an alchemy lab, workbench, and arcane enchanter if you have some skilling you want to do.
Hall of Rumination
The partially destroyed remains of a Dwemer city make up a significant portion of Blackreach, with several intact buildings still standing. One of them is the Hall of Rumination.
In the northwest section of Blackreach, the Hall of Rumination is home to some Falmer and their servants. How Falmer, of all things, could acquire a cadre of servants is beyond me. How did these people even get down here without an Attunement Sphere?
Anywho, There’s a considerable amount of servants to deal with, but they all use weak weapons and have no armor, so they’re easy to defeat. An elevator inside the hall takes you to the top exterior platform with a throne outside.
The Hall of Rumination also has something of a hidden boss fight. See that big glowing orb? Use your Unrelenting Force Shout on it. Doing so will awaken a dragon named Vulthuryol.
Vulthuryol is one of the weaker Ancient Dragons in the game, partially due to the fact that he oddly likes to crawl on the ground than fly. But he can still be a challenge if you’re low-level. If you want to put Vulthuryol to work for you, stay out of sight after you awaken him. He will likely fly around Blackreach and attack the other enemies there.
The Debate Hall is in the western part of Blackreach in the same city as the Hall of Rumination. Falmer and their servants wander around inside and around the structure. There’s a doorway on the upper floor of the Debate Hall leading to and from the Pumping Station.
The most noteworthy piece of loot inside the Debate Hall is A Dance in Fire, v6, a Speech skill book.
Silent City Catacombs
A sewer entrance to the Silent City Catacombs is in the central part of Blackreach, partially submerged in the river. You can easily spot it as there is a crimson nirnroot chiming outside it.
Home to a few Falmer and some old Dwemer traps, the Silent City Catacombs houses two of the dozens of Blackreach’s geode ore veins. There are also a couple of Charus egg sacs, which is good if you have Green Thumb. One of the Falmer inside is a mage carrying a shaman key. This item is a fakeout by Bethesda that actually serves no purpose and doesn’t unlock anything. Don’t waste your time trying to find a lock that doesn’t exist.
Accessible via the Debate Hall or the Silent City Catacombs, the Pumping Station is a small dungeon-esque location. Debris blocks the other entry and exit points.
There are a few Falmer servants inside and a chest or two.
Tower of Mzark
The Tower of Mzark is in the southwest corner of Blackreach and a focal point of the Elder Knowledge, Discerning the Transmundane, and Scroll Scouting quests. Inside lies the Oculory, which contains one of the world’s Elder Scrolls.
Along with the Elder Scroll, the Tower of Mzark contains The Armorer’s Challenge, a Smithing skill book, a grand soul gem, the corpse of Drokt and his journal, and a decent amount of alchemical ingredients. By using the lever in a chamber on the second floor of the Tower of Mzark, you can return to the surface world. Once unlocked from the inside, you can use this lift to get back down to Blackreach.
The Reeking Tower is in the northwest section of Blackreach and is immediately recognizable from all the webs and egg sacs. As you would expect from the decoration, frost spiders live here. But by this stage in the game, these creepy crawlers may as well be level 1 rats.
There are several crimson nirnroots around the outside of the tower. Inside are a couple of spider egg sacs and a chest. You’ll be in and out of here in a few minutes.
Blackreach has a thing for silence. The Silent Ruin is at the northern end of Blackreach. You can use it to catch a breather and take a break from combat, but be aware of the small Falmer camp nearby to the north.
There are a few Dwemer traps inside the Silent ruin and some Dwemer scrap items. There’s a copy of Warrior, a Block skill book resting on a throne inside.
The Derelict Pumphouse is in the southeast part of Blackreach, in the middle of a lake. Several geode ore veins and crimson nirnroot are nearby.
Inside the Pumphouse are two chests, one hidden and submerged in the water below. A lone Dwarven Spider is in this section of the Pumphouse.
There’s a lift inside that will take you to the upper entrance. This exit can lead you to the Raldbthar Deep Market. Remember that if you haven’t first cleared Raldbthar from the front, this entry/exit is virtually useless as you haven’t used an Attunement Sphere yet.
Farm Overseer’s House
The Farm Overseer’s House lies west of the Tower of Mzark. The interior of this location contains a few alchemical ingredients, Falmer equipment, and Dwarven metal items. The real highlight of the Farm Overseer’s House is the exterior. Outside is a path leading to the house with fifteen bunches of mushrooms like Namira’s Rot, Fly Amanita, and White Cap. Green Thumb is essential here.
There’s also one geode and corundum ore vein around the house.
The War Quarters is a tiny Dwarven building in the southeastern part of Blackreach. They’re mostly empty and contain nothing except a possible Snow White and the Seven Dwarves reference. At the western end of the War Quarters is a door leading to the balcony with two lootable chests.
From the entrance of the War Quarters, go west until you see a small arena-like area. Watch out for the nearby Dwarven Centurion.
Go around the spinning blades trap in the middle of the arena and up into the stands. You’ll find a copy of 2920, MidYear, v6, a Heavy Armor skill book.
Alftand Cathedral is in the northeast section of Blackreach and the likely method by which you’ll enter Blackreach for the first time during Elder Knowledge. Like Raldbthar and Mzinchaleft, you must first go through the front entrance of Alftand and use your Attunement Sphere on the Dwarven Mechanism to unlock the way to Blackreach.
Attempting to enter Alftand or the other two Dwemer Ruins from their backdoors will not work as you’ve yet to unlock the way from the other side.
Raldbthar Deep Market
Raldbthar Deep Market is the back entrance leading from Blackreach and into Raldbthar. Just like with Alftand Cathedral, you need to enter Raldbthar from the front first.
To the west of the back entrance to Raldbthar Deep Market is a Falmer hut with a guaranteed Falmer Armor piece spawn.
Nearly identical to the back entrances of Alftand and Raldbthar Deep Market, Mzinchaleft Gatehouse is a dead location until you unlock the door from the front with your Attunement Sphere.
Great Lift at Alftand
The Great Lift at Alftand is southeast of the Alftand Cathedral back entrance and Sinderion’s Field Laboratory. Press the button on the top of the metal head sculpture in front of the gate. Doing so will release the gate and allow you to use the Great Lift at Alftand.
Take the lift topside to activate the map marker for the Great Lift at Alftand, then pull the lever on the right to release the gate. From this point on, you’ll be able to use this location as a quick means of getting back into Blackreach.
Great Lift at Mzinchaleft
The Great Lift at Mzinchaleft is southeast of the Mzinchaleft Gatehouse’s back entrance. Identical to the Great Lift at Alftand, unlock the gate by pressing the button on the metal head sculpture. Take the lift up, unlock the map marker, and pull the lever to unlock the gate.
Great Lift at Raldbthar
The Great Lift at Raldbthar is northeast of the Derelict Pumphouse. You know the drill by now.
If you’ve yet to explore two of the three Dwemer ruins of Alftand, Raldbthar, or Mzinchaleft (You will need to go through one of them from the front to get into Blackreach for the first time), these Great Lifts are great ways to kickstart those locations. All of them are in close proximity to the front entrances of their respective ruins.
- Dragon Elder Scroll
- Runed Lexicon
- 2920, MidYear, v6 (Heavy Armor skill book)
- Warrior (Block skill book)
- De Rerum Dirennis (Alchemy skill book)
- A Dance in Fire, v6 (Speech skill book)
- Attunement Sphere
- Falmer Armor piece
- Leather Boots of Hauling
- Sinderion’s Field Journal
- Drokt’s Journal
- Centurion Dynamo Cores
- Wisp Wrappings
- Daedra Heart
- Leveled soul gems
- Ebony ore
- Gold ore
- Charus eggs
- Charus Hunter Antennae (If Dawnstar is active)
Discerning the Transmundane
Discerning the Transmundane is a side quest that can run concurrently with several other quests and is necessary for obtaining the Attunement Sphere needed to access Blackreach. After Septimus gives you the Attunement Sphere and Black Lexicon, use the Attunement Sphere in Mzinchaleft, Raldbthar, or Alftand to get inside Blackreach.
Septimus wants you to inscribe the knowledge of the Elder Scroll onto the Black Lexicon in the Tower of Mzark. Doing so will give you a Runed Lexicon you must take back to Septimus.
Scroll Scouting/Seeking Disclosure
Scroll Scouting and Seeking Disclosure are both Dawnguard quests for different NPCs that require you to obtain the Dragon Elder Scroll from inside the Tower of Mzark.
A Return to Your Roots
A Return To Your Roots focuses on uncovering the origins and secrets of Blackreach’s crimson nirnroot. You can begin this quest by either reading Sinderion’s Field Journal or harvesting a crimson nirnroot.
After obtaining 30 crimson nirnroot, the game will direct you to Sinderion’s apprentice, Avrusa Sarethi. Give these roots to her to continue the quest.
Question: Is it Worth Going Back to Blackreach to Farm Resources?
Answer: Yes and no. The creatures there are worth farming. If you have Dawnstar active, Blackreach is a great source of Chaurus Hunter Antennae.
The Centurion Dynamo Cores from the Dwarven Centurions are needed to create Daedric equipment at the Atronach Forge, and Blackreach has a good amount of them. But for resources like geode ore veins and crimson nirnroots, that’s trickier due to bugged respawn functionality.
Additionally, your Great Lifts may or may not reset after a while, meaning you may need to take one of the long ways back into Blackreach again.
Question: Is there a Way to Guarantee Grand/black Soul Gems from Geode Ore Veins?
Answer: No. Being at least level 30/31 increases the chances of them dropping, but there’s always a chance you’ll receive lower-level soul gems too.
Question: Does Vulthuryol Respawn as a Generic Dragon after Killing Him?
Answer: No. Vulthuryol is a one-time-only boss fight. No other dragons will spawn at this location.
Blackreach Skyrim: Conclusion
Visually speaking, Blackreach is one of Skyrim’s most top-tier locations (Alongside Bloated Man’s Grotto from the Ill Met by Moonlight quest). After the absolutely fascinating and bizarre locale that was Vvardenfell in Morrowind, Bethesda has since gone down a more generic Western RPG path.
And while not necessarily a bad thing, Oblivion and Skyrim inarguably have more samey-looking locations than Morrowind did. Which, in a way, makes their game worlds less interesting to explore.
Blackreach is one of a handful of locations in Skyrim that bucks that trend. Blackreach is home to a few exclusive items and a lot of useful and rare resources. Unfortunately, due to the bugs, you may encounter here, which results in some of those exclusive items never respawning, I have to take some brownie points back from Bethesda.
I suppose that’s pretty much Bethesda in a nutshell, though. They can do a standup job on worldbuilding but fall short in other areas, like the technical aspects and overall polish. Nevertheless, I do still find Blackreach an enjoyable place to explore and one of the better center stages of the main questline.