On Steens Mountain Area Hot Springs


"Despite its clarity and simplicity, however, the desert wears at the same time, paradoxically, a veil of mystery. Motionless and silent it evokes in us an elusive hint of something unknown, unknowable, about to be revealed. Since the desert does not act it seems to be waiting-but waiting for what?" - Edward Abbey

I was inspired by this blog post about southeast Oregon's Steens Mountain area to go back and revisit past trips to hot springs in the same region. After realizing that none of my previous visits made it to the blog, aside from a post on Steens Mountain activism, I decided to post pictures, video clips and trip reports from previous visits.

Willow Creek Hot Springs - SE Oregon

HS Description (view map)

Miles away from nowhere, Willow Creek Hot Spring features a single pool out in the middle of southeast Oregon's high desert region. An all-season gravel/dirt road will get you most of the way there, but the last bit is on soft dirt, which is impassible during rain. Choose your season wisely.

Trip Report for October 2002

Willow Creek is the 2nd nicest HS I have visited in SE Oregon. The first being Alvord HS. This HS is located in a BLM managed area and is longtime favorite of the RV crowd. There's plenty of flat, excellent camping and a BLM pit-toilet. Perfect temperature and nice depth were what really made this HS a prime soak. Prepare yourself for a long, dusty, bumpy, long ride as this is located in the middle of nowhere.... perfect!
Rating A

March 2008 Video Clip : Wild Horses and Hot Springs in the Oregon Desert

Clip features two run-ins with real-life wild horses. There are not many of these herds left in the US. The rest of the clip features a high-desert hot springs... Willow Creek. Footage is from the southeast corner of Oregon, approx. 4 hours from Boise Idaho and near Fields Oregon.

View other trip reports for Willow Creek from 2003 through 2008

Bog Hot Springs - NE Nevada

October 2006 Video Clip

Located in the high mountain desert region of northern Nevada 312 miles from Boise. The video clip features a sunset soak, the hot springs at dawn and primitive campsite footage.

Alvord Hot Springs - SE Oregon

HS Description (view map)

Adjacent to the Alvord Desert (and dry lakebed of the same name) and Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon are two large concrete tanks, one with walls the other without (neither with a roof) - a thin layer of algae coats the bottoms and each pool has submerged seating (courtesy of a handful of retired washers) - the pools are surrounded by decking and benches with a covered room off to the side of the walled pool, there is also a garbage can present that locals cart in and out on a regular basis. Please pack out all your own trash.

Trip Reports for September and October 2002

10.14.02, 10.15.02 & 10.16.02
A full week of soaking (in Alvord HS and Willow Creek HS), backpacking and camping in the Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain made for an excellent combination. Sighted and confirmed (with 8 total people in the area) a flying object at approximately 7pm on Monday the 14th above the southern portion of the Steens. This is no joke, I saw this baby as clear as day along with my friend and two others while soaking at Alvord. Ten minutes later we were joined by 3 more people that frantically approached us from the north. They literally ran up to the pools and asked us "Did you guys see that thing in the sky?", apparently one of the fellows said he had lived in this area for over 40 years and had never seen anything like it. The next day we confirmed the sighting with 2 more campers and the owner of the Fields gas station/store. Daytime temps were 70-80º and nighttime temps ran between 9-22º!

(added 12.31.08)
The irony is that the location of the hovering object was directly above where we had originally planned to camp that same night. However, our pack trip was cut short when we misjudged water refilling locations and had to abruptly return from a two-day hike out in mere hours. Which is why we were soaking in Alvord, we were beat! Interestingly enough, we did spend a couple hours hiking around the area in question before our discovery and subsequent dramatic return hike. The only irregularity we noticed while milling about were groupings of rocks that were white as snow, as if something super-heated the color right out of them from above... hmmm. Another mystery of the high desert I suppose.

Rating A

We bagged on Bagby (in OR) because our planned route had been closed because of wildfires. So, we decided on a route through the desert. What a cool soak! Inscriptions from soakers of the past were everywhere. People on their way to Burning Man and other festivals have left insightful messages for all to read while enjoying a shady soak along with many other hot springers. There was some weird stuff however, things that I'd rather not repeat. Shame on you few. Many thanks goes out to those of you many that peacefully enjoy these ancient places. You deserve a stellar soak in my book.
Rating A-

Borax Lake Hot (?) Springs

HS Description (view map)

Borax Lake is a small lake heated by thermal vents, and only feels warm during select parts of the year.

Trip Report for October 2002

Borax Lake HS is right next to an old Borax Works station were Borax was mined and carted by mule train to Winemucca, NV. The remains of the station are still visible. The lake itself takes a bit of dusty, bumpy driving to reach. There are ways to drive all the way in if you are not interested in walking or biking from the gates. Be aware that the tiny sand/clay particles can be rough on your vehicle and will seep into just about everywhere. Even after returning home I had that stuff blasting out of my truck heater for days! Don't forget to bring lots of water either. This HS is located on BLM land and contains extremely high levels of arsenic. Neither one of us did more than stick an arm or leg in the cool water of Borax Lake.
Rating D+

Hart Mountain Hot Springs

October 2006 Video Clip (view map)

So, there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the recap as much as I did - can't wait to go back.

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Lydia said...

Thanks for the link to my post about Steens. Nice to meet someone else who feels as strongly about preserving this special place as I do.

Love your pictures and I'm anxious to see the clip with the horses, but it just won't open right now. I'll return and try again.

Notes: My new kitten is named Willow; your UFO sighting is very exciting - but I've always felt that would be a place "others" would be drawn to; and I've (perhaps stupidly) soaked in Borax Lake a couple of times. I loved the little Borax Lake Chubbs poking around me. Those visits I'd come in via the long way through the desert....opening/closing fences to get through as I didn't know about the power road then. Entering where I did I missed the sign that told about the arsenic levels as well as the special protected status of the lake. I wouldn't sit in there again.....

Lydia said...

P.S. to earlier comment. I never left, and instead looked at all of your beautiful shots in your Flickriver album. You should publish a book of these amazing photos.
I was successful in viewing the clips this second try. Terrific!

Matt Weyen said...

Are these hot springs winter temperature friendly?

Hot Springs Guy said...

Hi Lydia,

Thank you for you comments and kind words! So cool to be able to share a place so special with someone like yourself. I'm glad you were able to get the video clip to play. Great name for your kitten BTW!

I can't wait to return to the area... it has been far too long.


Hot Springs Guy said...

Hey Matt,

You bet they are! Just be wary of wet weather; some of those high desert roads have soft dirt that can turn into quicksand with a little rain.

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