Wild Hot Springs in the Payette National Forest

6.24.2006
Buckhorn Hot Springs



A gradually inclined 5 mile hike on an overgrown, old forest road to hard to find, meadow and forest bordered hot springs in the Payette National Forest near Buckhorn Creek.


Hot water from the source flows down part of a hill into a hollowed-out lodge pole pine and then into a rock walled pool with a sandy and rocky bottom. Another source outflows into a raised wood gutter that acts as a stand-up shower and boasts near perfect temperatures.


Buckhorn was tough to reach on this trip because of the last blast of spring runoff. The hike up was beautiful, chock full of vibrant butterflies. The trail was rutted out near stream crossings and sharp inclines thanks to trail bike and mountain bike enthusiasts. The outfitter/hunter camps were a nightmare. Someone was just up here and left quite a mess indeed... I was furious. There was crap everywhere! Almost all of it was primarily concentrated at the main outfitter camp. I notified the National Forest Law Enforcement, Jeff Higgley, of the situation upon returning. I found out that he'd already been working on it. That's why I like Jeff, he's a good steward of the land and a great example of how you would hope all public land personnel would be.


I also found out that they have been having an increasing problem with the majority of hunters and anglers. It was about the same kind of thing I run into all of the time - most impact the environment in irreversible ways - like trying to drive their 'rig' in as far as possible. God forbid they leave a light footprint and actually hike in without motorized assistance. We agreed that his father and my grandfather would be rolling in their graves (as both were hunters and anglers that respected the land) in regard to hunters and anglers of this day. I've seen coked-up hunting parties, drunk hunters driving around on ORVs at 3am shooting off their shotguns in the air, backpacking campsites trashed with angler garbage, signs/doors/fee boxes shot up by hunters and more. Respect the land or leave.


Stand-up Shower

After dropping down to Buckhorn Creek and fording on a fallen tree to the meadow campsite I was greeted by views of a submerged meadow. Runoff was raging, and as such was covering the majority of the meadow in fast moving water. After much exploration another fallen tree was found upstream that provided passage across to the hot springs. Note: after making the crossing, I decided that it wasn't such a great idea to go after Bucky during runoff - too risky, one slip off the tree and the chances surviving the frigid, strong currents would be slim.


Buckhorn Creek

The pool was loaded up with algae, although I didn't recognize any horse fly larva that I've heard rumors about. The stand-up shower was better than I remembered... hotter too. Nothing like a hot geo-shower overlooking a sunken meadow and raging creek during a warm spring afternoon.
Rating B-

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